Skip to main content
Internet Archive's 25th Anniversary Logo

Full text of "... Primer of Italian literature"

See other formats








gUw ffiorft 






F. J. SNELL, M.A. 





PC* 4043 


IN introducing this work it is scarcely necessary to 
do more than specify one or two of the sources from 
which information has been gleaned. Such are the 
lectures of Paolo Emiliani-Giudici, which I have found 
interesting and instructive, though very discursive ; 
and there is an exquisite little work (one of Hoepli's 
manuals) by Cesare Fenini, which gives an admirable 
resume of the whole subject. Somewhat more practical 
is Raffaello Fornaciari's Disegno storico della Lettera- 
tura italiana. The generous help and kindly criticism 
of Mr. F. York Powell call also for grateful acknow- 

This Primer does not profess to present a complete 
account of Italian Literature, and it would be idle to 
expect unanimous approval of the names inserted or 
of those which have been left out. This is, however, 
only an elementary work, and it will be easy to supply 
inevitable deficiencies from more ambitious volumes. 
The book will have fulfilled its object, if it prove 
serviceable to those for whom it is primarily designed. 


April 29, 1893. 

























Page 67, line 16, for sixteenth read fifteenth 
117, 10, for seventeenth read sixteenth 

Snell s Primer of Italian Literature 

As Italy had been the home of the old civilisation, we 
might expect that she would be the first to rise, phoenix-like, 
from her ashes, and take her place as leader and guide of 
the literary movement which sprang up among the peoples 
of south-western Europe with the consolidation of the new 
states. If such is our expectation, we are deceived. In the 

B 2 



AMONG Dante's manifold titles to honour, the highest and 
most distinctive is that of being the true founder of Italian 
literature. The words must not be misunderstood. They 
certainly do not imply that before Dante no one attempted 
Italian composition. To assert this would be to falsify 
history. It would involve also grave injustice to a number 
of writers whose example, no less than his own consciousness 
of power, animated Dante to those grand achievements which 
have rendered his name immortal. What the phrase does 
signify is that Dante, both in verse and prose, is the first of 
Italian authors to whom we can fitly apply the term * master/ 
The efforts of his predecessors and coevals were all, more or 
less, tentative, and failed to lift their art wholly out of the 
region of experiment. They were groping after a perfection 
which was beyond their reach, beyond even their ken, but 
which was realised and revealed in the Commedia. 

As Italy had been the home of the old civilisation, we 
might expect that she would be the first to rise, phoenix-like, 
from her ashes, and take her place as leader and guide of 
the literary movement which sprang up among the peoples 
of south-western Europe with the consolidation of the new 
states. If such is our expectation, we are deceived. In the 

B 2 


possession or" a literature she -was forestalled both by France 
and Spain, and when at length she does make her debut, it is 
in the character of a humble follower of Provence. This 
anomaly may be explained partly by political conditions, 
which in Italy were less stable than in the sister countries 
less propitious, therefore, to the cultivation of letters. But it 
should seem also that her post of privilege as fille afae'eof the 
Empire was not in this regard beneficial to her. It had a 
retarding influence on her rejuvenation. For centuries the 
best Italian intellects were usurped by the effete and, for the 
mass of the people, unintelligible language of Rome. Litera- 
ture was an affair of hieroglyphics. It was confined to a 
caste. The only recognised subjects were theology and 
jurisprudence. The remembrance of Roman greatness, of 
which the faint reflex was still visible in the papacy, was 
almost a fatal bar to Italian progress. It drew men's minds 
backwards and made them cling to impossible ideals. The 
restoration of the Empire, not the unity of Italy, was the 
dream of impassioned patriots, and in the millennium to which 
their hopes pointed the universal tongue was to be Latin. 
How disadvantageously this illusion would affect the status of 
the Italian vernacular, is obvious at a glance. It is a wonder 
that there was a native literature at all. Even the greatest 
minds succumbed to the snare, and by inditing epics in a 
dead language, poets prepared a sarcophagus for their reputa- 
tions. We shall not be far wrong if we figure to ourselves 
the history of Italian literature, during its most significant 
epochs, as that of an internecine strife between the Latin and 
Italian languages, or, more broadly, between the past and the 

The literature of Italy, properly so called, may be described, 
with some approach to accuracy, as an organic whole. It 


had its beginnings somewhere in the thirteenth century in 
Sicily, but prior to this there was a burst of literary activity 
in the north of Italy, in the Marca Trivigiana. This circum- v 
stance is in some danger of being forgotten, and was not 
too notorious even in Dante's time. He at least reminds us 
that there solea valore e cortesia trovarsi prima che Federigo 
avesse briga. Apparently this poetry, imported from Provence, 
never quite divested itself of its foreign attributes, but it was 
not merely an exotic. It is seen at its best in the romantic 
verses, love-lyrics and moral poems, written for the people 
and sung by them in their native dialect. . Fragments of these , 
which are being gradually accumulated illustrate the import- 
ance of this attempt, which, however, did not ultimately 
succeed. The most flourishing period of this Franco-Italian 
verse dates from the close of the twelfth to the middle of the 
thirteenth century in all about eighty years. Its professors 
were styled trovatori, a description which at once stamps them , 
as imitators, though, having been adopted as the equivalent 
of ' poet/ it was freely applied to others. Peculiar interest 
attaches to one name Sordello. Nothing is really known 
respecting him. The contradictory reports which have come 
down to us are too absurd to be believed, and what small 
kernel of truth there may be in them, it is impossible for even 
the wisest to extract. But Dante has helped the trouba- 
dour to a renown which he was impotent to achieve for him- 
self; and that nothing might be wanting to him, Sordello has 
been made the subject of a great English poem by Mr. 

It has been said that the cradle of Italian literature was 
Sicily. Still more extraordinary, its foster-father was a 
Teuton Teuton, that is to say, in origin, for in all else, 
education, sympathies, aspirations, he was purely Italian. 


Frederick II (1194-1250), son of Henry IV, and grandson 
of the terrible Barbarossa, lost both his parents in infancy. 
His mother Constance on dying committed him to the care 
of the Pope, Innocent III, who, singularly enough, showed 
but scant interest in his ward. The prince, therefore, as he 
grew up, imbibed sentiments which harmonized better with 
the traditions of his race than the relationship in which he 
actually stood to the head of the Church. As the result there 
was a complete breach between the two potentates, and one of 
the measures to which Frederick resorted in order to weaken 
his rival was an elaborate scheme for the secularisation of 
learning. Till then knowledge had been a monopoly of the 
clergy ; Frederick, by enlarging one university and founding 
others, created a new order of lay scholars. With the same 
object he wrested poetry from the giullari^ who had degraded 
it, and placed it in the more reverent hands of his proteges. 
This first epoch of Italian literature has been entitled, after 
the dynasty of which Frederick was the representative, Suevic. 
Frederick himself took an active part in regenerating poetry, 
and was copied by his sons Manfred and Enzo. Other 
votaries of the art were Piero delle Vigne, Jacopo da Lentini, 
often called the Notary, Guido and Odo dalle Colonne, 
Arrigo Testa and Mina, famous for her interchange of rhymes 
with Dante of Majano. Nor can we rightly omit Ciullo di 
Alcamo, whose dialogue between two lovers was long deemed 
to be the oldest specimen of Italian verse. 

Necessarily this Sicilian poetry is somewhat rough-hewn. 
The peculiar circumstances under which it was produced 
have left their marks on it. Latinisms abound. There are 
turns and forms of speech, some of them .dialectal, and 
others which appear to be borrowed from the French. 
The language is not always grammatical. But for all that 


the poetry has its charm. It is like the utterances of child- 
hood, fresh, graceful, and ingenuous, and its subject is love. 
Though so remote from what afterwards became the metro- 
polis of Italian culture Florence it is not difficult to 
account for the early pre-eminence of Sicily in the sphere of 
letters. The effect of the Norman conquest was to throw 
open the island to French minstrelsy, and the influence of 
troubadour and trouvere on the native population would 
naturally be great in proportion to the close affinity between 
the languages of oc, o'il, and si. One proof of this pre-eminence 
is that the term ' Sicilian ' was for a while a synonyme for 
standard or polite Italian, and Dante conjectured that it 
would be perpetuated in this sense. His prediction turned 
out false, but at this we need feel no surprise. It was frus- 
trated partly by his own genius, partly by a succession of 
calamities which rendered Sicily no longer possible as a 
centre of poetical studies. 

From Sicily the contagion spread to the mainland, but 
without any striking change in the symptoms. A sonnet 
written in Tuscany at this time is of much the same character 
as a canzonet of Palermo, and regarding their attainments, 
the writers are very much on a level. Thus any verdict 
which we might pass on Guido dalle Colonne would serve 
with slight modifications for Folcacchiero of Siena, Onesto 
and Fabrizio of Bologna, Saladino of Pavia, Giraldo of 
Castello, Noffo of Oltrarno, or Dante of Majano. In all of 
them it is impossible not to recognise tokens of the courtly 
and artificial muse of Provence. 

The first in whom the fruits of Frederick's policy are 
clearly perceptible is Guido Guinicelli. Guinicelli (t 1276) 
was the founder of what has been termed the Bolognese 
school of poetry, which differed from troubadour rhyme in 


being more learned. What Guinicelli did was this : he took 
poetry and wedded it to Platonic philosophy. He harped on 
the metaphysics of love, analyzing and examining it in order 
to discover its latent properties. In him poetry became 
objective. It dealt with love no longer as an inward experi- 
ence, but as an external phenomenon. At first this will 
hardly commend itself as an improvement. Indeed, such a 
mode of treating the grand passion was, in an important sense, 
retrograde, violating as it did one of the chief canons of real 
poetry which ought, before all, to express feeling. 

Looking at the matter as we naturally do from this stand- 
point, we of to-day find some difficulty in assenting to the 
high praise bestowed on Guinicelli by his contemporaries : 
for instance, Buonagiunta of Lucca. Buonagiunta, it is true, 
is not altogether insensible to Guinicelli's defects. He calls 
him subtle, and rails at his obscurity, but in the very sonnet 
in which he gives vent to his discontent with him, the 
Lucchese allows that he ' surpasses every other troubadour.' 
Even Dante recognised his authority, deigned to borrow from 
him, and as if this were not enough, called him ' father ' and 
1 best of those who ever used soft and lovely rhymes of love. 7 
For us Guinicelli's service to literature consists in this, that 
he broke the spell of tradition and gave to poetry a body, 
an element of permanence. If Guinicelli, in that he still 
clave to love as his theme, did not effect his full emancipation, 
others might transcend this limitation. The significant fact 
remains that henceforward poetry was no longer necessarily 
of a personal nature. It is a matter for regret therefore that 
Guinicelli, the inaugurator of the change, was so clearly 
deficient in imagination and force, and thereby disqualified 
for giving a better direction to his innovating tendencies. 
Other alterations, but of minor importance, may be noted in 


writings of the Bolognese school. There are fewer sugges- 
tions of dialect, and it was at this period that a transition 
was made from Provenal rhythms to the movement of the 
Italian stanza. But owing to the fondness of these poets for 
scholastic discussion, they did not attain, or even approach, 
their high ideal in the reconcilement of science with art. 

As regards Guinicelli's personal history we possess only the 
scantiest information. He was born at Bologna of a family 
whose style was principe, and he was a Ghibelline, a partisan, 
that is to say, of the emperor in his opposition to the pope. 
On the defeat of the Lambertazzi faction in 1274, he was 
driven into exile, but what afterwards became of him or where 
,he died, we do not know. 

The next poet of distinction is Guido Cavalcanti, a 
Florentine. Most writers on the subject have made of this 
latter circumstance a pretext for a digression on Florence, 
on the remarkable part which was taken by her in the 
development of Italian culture. Attempts have been made to 
explain this, now by the charming position of the city on the 
banks of the Arno and its girdle of pleasant hills, now by its 
soft climate, sometimes by the native shrewdness and energy 
of the Florentines which caused one of the popes to describe 
them as the fifth element in the universe. In considerations 
of this order the effects of climate and situation cannot be 
entirely overlooked, though Nature under all her aspects has 
been found a fruitful source of inspiration. So too with 
intellectual conditions, talent, ' an appetite, a feeling, and 
a love ' is a necessary postulate for success in literature. 
But it is a question whether any of these, or all these acci- 
dents together, afford a complete solution of the problem. 
Some regard must certainly be paid to history, and it is 
worthy of observation that in Tuscany the invasions of the 


barbarians were few and transient. In later times Florence 
clung tenaciously to her institutions showed herself a stead- 
fast champion of freedom. In this respect she was always 
a generation behind the rest of Italy, yielding at last to 
the tide of political degeneracy, but only after a gallant 
attempt to maintain her liberties. Apart from Florence, her 
republican forms and the fervour of her patriotism, Dante 
at least would be inconceivable. 

Guido Cavalcanti (t 1300), like the other Guido, was a 
Ghibelline, and adopted also, in some measure, Guinicelli's 
notions of verse. He belonged to a rich and noble Florentine 
family, and in his case a taste for study was hereditary. He 
enjoyed the friendship of Dante, who, however, with his 
usual impartiality places Cavalcanti' s father, as a disciple of 
Epicurus, in hell. 

Cavalcanti' s poetry is of a twofold character. He possessed 
a genuine poetic temperament, but this did not save him 
from being attracted, either by a misguided ambition or the 
force of precedent, towards the dull pedantries of Bologna. 
It was not, however, a complete surrender. Not all his 
poems smack of metaphysics, and if some of his verses com- 
posed in imitation of Guinicelli's are coldly scientific, those 
in which he abandons himself to the promptings of his own 
genius, are radiant with fancy and throb with life. Many of 
his sonnets, all the ballads which remain to us, fall to this 
second category. The lines which he addressed to his 
Mandetta, a lady of whom he was enamoured in a pilgrimage 
to Saint James of Galicia, are deliciously tender; and the 
pathos of the sonnet on his exile is anything but adscititious, 
being inspired by real suffering. The poem, however, for 
which Cavalcanti was chiefly famous in his day, is his 
canzonet on the Nature of Love. It produced an immense 


sensation, and the most learned philosophers, from Egidio 
Colonna, tutor of Philip le Bel, downwards, found an agree- 
able occupation in attempting to expound it. 

Cavalcanti, who is described as a great spirit, mingled in 
the civil commotions which so fatally distracted his native 
city, and was banished in the year of Dante's priorate to 
Sarzana. His place of exile proved unwholesome, and he was 
allowed to return. He died at the end of August in the 
same year 1300. 

In Cino Sinibaldi (1270-1336), generally called from his 
birthplace ' da Pistoia/ we encounter a somewhat different 
personage. Although the contemporary of Dante, whom 
he survived, intellectually he belongs to the preceding age. 
He was not influenced by the great art of Dante, and 
his affinities are rather with the Sicilian school than with 
that of Bologna. Poet not of reflexion, but of sentiment, Cino, 
least of all his coevals, syllogizes in verse. This is scarcely 
as we should have expected, since he was deeply versed 
in law. The simplicity of his poetry, however, may have 
been the fruit of a reaction from severe and possibly distasteful 
studies. His verse is Platonic in tone, but whatever philosophy 
it contains is innocent of formalism. Unequivocally Cino re- 
nounced theory. When one day Cavalcanti taunted him with 
plagiarism, Sinibaldi replied in a very sarcastic vein, protesting 
that Guido had never written anything worth the stealing. 
As for himself, he says, it is evident that he never was an 
artist. He is a man di basso ingegno, weeping for a heart 
that is gone from this world. Cino, holding exclusively to 
the old forms of love-poetry, arrived at such perfection in 
them that he is hardly surpassed even by Petrarch. He too 
was an ardent Ghibelline. 

Mention must be made in the next place of Dante's tutor, 


Brunette Latin^ (f 1294) and his Tesoretto. Of the various 
sorts of mediaeval composition, the vision had been among 
the most popular. It was this tradition which Latino seized 
upon, and to which he gave new vogue in the Tesoretto. He 
had been despatched by the Republic of Florence to Alfonso, 
King of Castile. Whilst he was returning a scholar met him, 
from Bologna, and informed him of the expulsion of the 
Guelfs, or papal party. Brunetto who, unlike other poets, 
favoured their cause, was so overcome with grief that he lost 
his way. In seeking to regain it, he found himself he feigns 
on the slope of a mountain, and, standing before him, an 
ancient and majestic dame whom he recognises as Nature. 
Hereupon a long scientific discourse ensues betwixt her and 
Latino. The poem has a few other incidents which, however, 
we need not stay to particularize. 

The Tesoretto, though it is termed a poem, is such only to 
the eye. It is written in septenarian couplets naturally 
a dull metre which, not being skilfully managed, are 
monotonous in the extreme. In it, the Tesoretto, are no 
lively images or suggestive metaphors, and it may be 
characterized not unfairly as a mould, into which Latino, an 
industrious and vain clerk, emptied his superfluous lore. It 
has its prose counterpart in the Tesoro, an encyclopaedic 
work which Latino composed in French, and which was 
translated into Italian by Bono Giamboni. It owed its repu- 
tation to the fact that it was written in one of the vernacular 
languages which the generality of scholars despised, and for 
centuries it was held in the highest esteem. The Tesorelto, 
on the contrary, was short-lived. Only when enquiries came 
to be made as to the probable sources of the Commedia was 
much interest taken in it. It would doubtless be easy to 
exaggerate the influence which Latino may be assumed to have 


exercised over his more famous disciple many critics have 
done so. Considering, however, the early and intimate rela- 
tions between them, and that Dante is certain to have known 
the Tesore/fo, nothing is more likely than that Latino's example 
may have gone some way in determining the form of the 
Commedia. Of course, in Dante's hands the vision becomes 
a totally new thing. 

A niche must here be found for Fra Jacopone da Todi, 
described by Villemain as le bouffon du genre dont le Dante 
e'tait le poete. He was an inspired madman, who, having lost 
the wife of his youth, became a Franciscan. What he com- 
posed in his frenzy is so eccentric that it is difficult to give it 
a name. It is pure midsummer madness, the like of which 
is nowhere in literature to be found. Like other unfortunates, 
he had his lucid intervals, but what he wrote then, though 
more decorous, is also more feeble. He was the author of 
the Stabat Mater, a tearful Latin poem, which has done far 
more for his fame than any of his Italian ravings. The date 
of his birth is unknown, but he died at a great age in 1 306. 
His real name was Jacopo, which was turned by the people 
into Jacopone on account of his buffooneries. His surname 
was Benedetti. 

The catalogue of Dante's rivals ends with another Guido, 
or, as he is called more frequently, Guittone d' Arezzo 
(t 1294). His general style, disfigured by intentional ob- 
scurity and foolish artifice, is the reverse of attractive. 
Through a long invertebrate paragraph, and at distressingly 
short intervals, he will ring the changes on a single vocable, 
under its several forms as verb and noun, adverb and ad- 
jective, so that it is sore work to read him, and this is only 
one of his trickeries. His writings, however, are important 
as affording the earliest specimens of Italian epistolary com- 


position. He has left forty letters, thirty-two in prose and 
eight in verse. . On purpose, as it might seem, to confound 
our natural expectations, there are given to him certain sonnets 
which are all that his other writings are not, graceful and 
pure, the acme of good taste and felicitous expression. Hence 
in the opinion of divers critics, more attentive to the logic of 
the case than concerned for Guittone' s reputation, they must 
be judged away from him ; the more so, because he is several 
times spoken of in no gentle terms by Dante. A question, 
however, might arise as to the importance of Dante's censure. 
It would not be difficult to adduce proofs that the greatest 
poets are not always the best critics. To select one of the 
most apposite, there is a passage in the Commedia in which 
Dante passionately defends Arnold Daniel from the de- 
preciatory comparisons of Guittone, but later judges are 
unanimous that Guittone was right. 

So much for the poets. A brief reference must be made 
also to the prose-writers. One of the most striking features 
of chivalry is the enthusiasm which was everywhere shown for 
chronicles. The earliest specimen of the sort now extant in 
Italian is a work by Matteo Spinelli. It is written in the 
Apulian dialect, and for that reason it is usual to forbear any 
detailed notice of it. It will be convenient to mention here 
the Novellmo or Flower of Gentle Speech, although it is not 
quite a parallel case, being a collection of a hundred tales. 
While the compilation, in the form in which we have received 
it, is undoubtedly later than the thirteenth century, there are 
individual stories dating from the reign of Frederick II, which 
are here permanently embalmed. 

The first author of any considerable work was Bicordano 
Malespini, who wrote a history of Florence. This chronicle, 
like others of its class subsequently, has a long preamble in 


the nature of a universal history, and reaching back to Ninus. 
The insertion was not wholly gratuitous. The age was one 
of gross ignorance, which Malespini, somewhat out of season, 
thus attempted to dispel. Ricordano Malespini' s chronicle 
ends with the year 1282, and is continued by his nephew 
Giacchetto down to 1286. The work supplies no internal 
evidence of the break, the nephew being in manner so like 
the uncle that the Storia might well pass as the composition 
of one and the same person. Another historian of the period 
is Dino Compagni (t 1255-1324), who takes up his 
parable at the point where Giacchetto Malespini leaves off. 
He recounts the famous reform of Giano della Bella, the 
coming of Charles of Valois, the usurpation and death of 
Carlo Donati, and the descent of Henry of Luxemburg. 
Dino was not only eye-witness, but was himself pars magna 
of the scenes he realistically depicts. Singularly, as appears 
to us, he makes but little of Dante, although the latter had 
preceded him in the office of prior. Political differences 
may in part account for this, but men had hardly had time 
as yet to take in the superhuman dimensions of Dante's 
character and genius. Finally, the reader should be warned 
that some scepticism exists as to the authenticity of these 

This was a great age of translators. Brunetto Latino, 
who was called on that account by Filippo Villani the 
* Schoolmaster of the Florentines/ rendered into Italian 
Cicero's Books on Rhetoric, together with other writings 
of the ancients, and Bono Giamboni, as before noted, did the 
same for the larger work of Latino. 



IT was intimated at the outset that Dante (1265-1321) 
was the virtual creator of Italian literature, and that writers 
who went before prepared the way for him. We are now 
better able to see in what sense this was true. In the Sicilian 
school there was passion without knowledge, in the Bolognese 
knowledge without passion. (The formula need not be con- 
strued too literally : it represents correctly enough the broad 
aspects of the case.) There_can, however, be no great work 
of imagination in which these elements do not blend, to 
which heart and head do not contribute egually. This 
auspicious union was consummated in Dante. Setting aside 
the question of the truth or falsehood of those systems in 
which he had been educated, and looking only to the amount 
of information which he actually assimilated, it may be said 
that, with one or two exceptions, none ever knew more than 
Dante. It is certain that none ever felt more deeply. The 
result might almost have been foreseen. Poetry, which had 
before existed in a gaseous state, was by Dante crystallized 
into the consistency, splendour, and worth of a diamond. 

His biography, for so great a man, is very brief. Carlyle 
says it is ' irrecoverably lost/ but enough has been saved for the 
interpretation of his writings. A Florentine, and born in the 
city the 8th May 1265, he came of an old and honourable 
family, the Aldighieri. One of his ancestors, Cacciaguida, 

Ch. II.] DANTE. 17 

fought under the Emperor Conrad in the Crusades, and 
after being dubbed a knight fell gloriously in the Holy Land. 
His father dying when the poet was still an infant, the task 
of bringing him up devolved on his mother, Bella. It was 
excellently performed. Brunetto Latino is said to have been 
his preceptor, and to have taught him rhetoric, while in- 
struction in other subjects was imparted to him in the 
schools of his native city. In 1281, when he was hardly 
sixteen, he proceeded (so, at least, says Benvenuto da Imola) 
to Bologna to perfect himself. 

Dante was a lover of the fine arts, and an intimate friend 
of Giotto, as well as of Oderigi or Oderisi da Gubbio, a 
notable miniature painter of Bologna. Furthermore, we learn 
from Boccaccio that Dante, being naturally sombre, sought 
relief from his thoughts in the society of the celebrated 
singers and musicians at Florence, and especially of one 
Casella, who appears to have set Dante's verse to music. 
His attachment to these aesthetic pursuits, however, was not 
such as to render him less expert in more virile accomplish- 
ments. He fought on horseback in the front ranks at 
Campaldino (1289) against the Ghibellines of Arezzo, and 
the following year shared the triumph of his countrymen 
over the Pisans at Caprona. In due time he was advanced 
to be one of the chief magistrates of Florence, in which 
position it was inevitable that he should be drawn into the 
violent and bitter struggles which disfigured her public life. 
The rival parties were the Neri and Bianchi. In the former 
the Guelfs predominated, while the latter included many 
Ghibellines. Dante in his office of prior was thought to 
favour the Bianchi. During the progress of the quarrel he 
went to Rome to implore the mediation of the pope, and 
his enemies availed themselves of his absence to obtain 



sentence of exile against him, with the confiscation of his 
goods. This stern decree was afterwards aggravated by the 
brutal corollary that he should be burnt, if captured, alive. 
The pretext assigned was that he had been guilty of 

The date of Dante's priorate was 1300, and he was 
banished in 1302. In 1304 he probably took part in a 
sudden attack on the city by his fellow-exiles. The assault 
failed, and it does not appear that it was ever renewed. From 
this time Dante's hopes of restoration depended not so much 
on the efforts of the Bianchi as on the general success of the 
Ghibelline cause, to which, on other and higher grounds, 
he attached supreme importance. He now led a nomadic 
life, partly at the various seats of learning, partly at the 
courts of princelings, like Can Grande of Verona. He 
died the i4th of September, 1321, at Ravenna, where he 
lies buried in the Friars' Church. Previous to his exile he 
married a lady named Gemma Donati, by whom he had 
sons and daughters. Two sons, Pietro and Jacopo, anno- 
tated their father's poem. Neither rose above mediocrity. 
The gossips would have it that Dante's wife Gemma was 
a scold, and that, having once parted from her, he never 
wished for her again. Boccaccio has reported this scandal, 
with a qualifying non so. However that may be, certain 
it is that Dante was always in verse or prose reviving the 
memory of his first love. To this first love of Dante, so 
fruitful in its consequences, the reader must now direct his 

When Dante was nine years old, he was invited to a party 
at the house of one of the noblest citizens of Florence, Folco 
Portinari, where he made the acquaintance of an angelic 
little being, named Bice or Beatrice. She was the daughter 

II.] DANTE. 19 

of Portinari, and about a year younger than Dante. It was 
springtime, and the sweet season adding its influence to the 
festiveness of the scene and Bice's childish beauty, there was 
wrought in Dante's heart a mysterious change which left him 
no more master of himself. His passion had not much to 
feed on, but Dante was not dissatisfied. A sight, a greeting, 
sent him to the seventh heaven. No terms were too ex- 
travagant to describe his emotions, for they absorbed his 
whole nature, and out of the abundance of his charity he 
was ready to forgive his worst enemies their transgressions. 
What, however, is of more concern to us is the force of this 
attachment in developing his poetic faculty. At nineteen 
years of age, as he himself tells us, he wrote his first sonnet, 
addressing it to all the poets then living in order to provoke 
a reply. Among the answers he received was one from his 
namesake, Dante of Majano. The little poem, whose sub- 
ject was a love-dream, was published anonymously, and 
counted among its admirers Guido Cavalcanti, who became, 
as the fatal consequence, one of Dante's warmest friends. 

By-and-bye Beatrice was married to a young nobleman, 
Simone de' Bardi, but the event does not appear to have 
occasioned in Dante any excessive perturbation of spirit. 
His love for her had always been platonic : at any rate 
he survived. What did prostrate him was her death, which 
occurred the 9th of June, 1290, when Dante was twenty-five. 
From that time the gaiety of his spirits was permanently 
eclipsed. For years he was inconsolable. He could not 
forget his loss. Even study, the counsels of grave philoso- 
phers, failed to restore his equilibrium. In vain he read 
Boethius and Cicero. He could find vent for his feel- 
Ings nowhere except in verse. Towards his twenty-ninth 
year he grouped his scattered poems into an opuscule, 

c 2 


which he entitled Vita Nuova, and sent it with a sonnet to 
Brunetto Latini. 

The Vita Nuova is not simply verse. It is verse in a 
setting of prose, and was intended as a memorial to the dead 
Beatrice. In it he relates the commencement, progress, and 
conclusion of their loves. The work is quasi-scientific, Dante 
being at once poet and commentator. Guided by the same 
motives which prompted Goethe to compile that surprising 
document Dichtung und Wahrheit, though employing a 
different method, Dante takes each poem and expounds its 
meaning. Already in this his first work he certifies himself 
as a dreamer. The Vita Nuova is a train of soft illusions, 
or, to change the figure, we have here the pilgrim of love 
recounting his ecstasies. It closes with the mention of a 
wondrous vision surpassing all which had before appeared 
to him, and the lover and clairvoyant expresses the not futile 
hope that he may say of Beatrice that which was never yet 
said of any. In these rather enigmatical terms some have 
read an announcement of the Divine Comedy a reading 
which, apart from the plain coincidence, receives support 
from the tradition that of the Inferno eight cantos were com- 
pleted before Dante's exile. 

The poetry of the Vita Nuova has a delicate undefinable 
charm which springs largely from its spontaneity. The 
images, as they arose in his mind, clothed themselves in 
appropriate language which Dante had no need to retouch. 
As regards the commentary it is notable as being the first 
prose writing in Italian literature which reveals the hand of 
an artist. It has indeed some smack of the scholastic rigour 
of the age, but whatever its deficiencies in this respect, the 
vocabulary is richer, the style more majestic, the expressions 
bolder than anything to be found in the works of his prede- 

II.] DANTE. 21 

cessors. The publication of the Vita Nuova, added to his 
rhymes on various subjects which were passed from hand 
to hand, rendered Dante the most famous poet of the time, 
and among those who saluted the rising luminary was the 
illustrious King of Hungary, Charles Martel. 

Dante's next great work was the Convito, written seem- 
ingly in the interval between the separation of the exiles 
and the election of Henry of Luxemburg as King of the 
Romans. The title is borrowed from the Symposium of Plato, 
and Dante's object in writing the book was to reproach his 
countrymen for their conduct towards him, to show what? 
manner of man they had lost by banishing him, and, if 
possible, to effect his return. The work is similar in design 
to the Vita Nuova. It was to consist of fourteen canzonets 
in honour of Beatrice, from which he undertook to bring 
out the philosophic import concealed under the obvious 
sense. This he did in a scientific comment, which, how- 
ever, does not extend beyond the third canzonet. These 
poems were certainly not written with any arriere pense'e such 
as Dante imputes to them, but the spirit of allegory was 
abroad, and this, assisted by the precedent of Cavalcanti's 
poem on the Nature of Love and the innumerable commen- 
taries thereupon, fortified Dante for an otherwise impossible 
task, i. e. that of extracting from a piece something which it 
does not contain. 

The Convito is the first successful attempt to trick out 
Aristotelian philosophy in an Italian dress. Emphasis is 
to be laid on the word ' successful/ for leaving out Bono 
Giamboni's translation of Latini's Tesoro, which was more 
rhetorical than scientific, a celebrated physician, Taddeo 
Ippocratista, had attempted a translation of Aristotle's Ethics, 
but the result was a failure. The Convito opens with a 


glowing eulogy on the Italian vernacular, which Dante likens 
to a new sun destined to arise and give light to those who 
are in gloom and darkness through the wonted sun, which 
does not illumine them. Allowance being made for the 
nature of the theme, the style of the Convito is in a high 
degree lofty and grand. Dante, whilst he adheres to scientific 
convention, is skilled in inventing new phrases which shed 
interest on a subject essentially dry, and here and there are 
outbursts of feeling, lyrical digressions, in which, released 
from the trammels of the schools, he allows full scope to his 
splendid eloquence. We must not, however, look for much 
originality in the thought of the Convito. In those days 
Aristotelian philosophy and Christian theology were so in- 
extricably bound up with each other as to be, in a certain 
sense, one, and Dante was rigidly orthodox. In this re- 
spect the Convito is mainly of service as a commentary on 
the Commedia, in parts of which, especially the Paradiso, the 
same ideas are reproduced, only more briefly. 

If the Convito teaches us Dante's philosophy, De Monarchia, 
a Latin tractate, shows us his politics. In order to counter- 
act the intrigues of the Pope, Philip of France, and the King 
of Naples, who sought to undermine his authority, Henry VII, 
in 1309, made a descent upon Italy, thereby raising the 
hopes of the Ghibellines to their zenith. Unluckily at the 
very moment when he was preparing to take vigorous and 
decisive action, the emperor sickened and died at the monas- 
tery of Buonconvento. This deplorable event both ruined 
the fortunes of the Ghibelline party and rendered Dante's 
exile perpetual. In his elation at the prospects which Henry's 
advent unfolded to him, Dante wrote several letters in which 
he boldly assailed his adversaries and proclaimed their 
destruction with an acrimony which his biographers have 

II.] DANTE. 23 

striven to excuse on the ground of human infirmity. 
Certainly it would not be difficult to apologise for a man who 
was at that very time under sentence of being burned alive, 
but Dante's resentment was rather political than personal. 
He did not desire the extinction of Florence, but his own 
return thither and the organization of the city on (as he 
conceived) sound political principles. What those principles 
were he gives us to understand in De Monarchia. 

Dante's theory is that ideal government is one, com- 
prehending all nations. Oligarchies and democracies are 
departures from the true type ' accidental governments,' 
' oblique polities ' as is proved by their involving wars and 
dissensions. What is required is not division, but unity. 
On turning over the pages of history, he finds his ideal 
realised in the Roman Empire, whose existence he regards as 
having been in a special manner ordained by Providence. 
The Roman Empire is the empire par excellence -, and its 
restoration is devoutly to be wished. These ideas are not 
by any means the exclusive property of Dante. There is 
hardly a political treatise of that age in which they may not 
be found. They are discussed, above all, in St. Thomas 
Aquinas' De Regimine Principum. The difficulty lay in their 
application. ' Who was the rightful successor of Augustus ? ' 
that was the question. The Ghibellines replied, ' The 
Emperor of Germany': the Guelfs, 'The Pope.' Whilst, 
then, Henry of Luxemburg sought to enforce his prerogative 
by material means, Dante undertook a crusade for the same 
object among the learned. His treatise is in the form of an 
immense syllogism. He shows in the first book that the 
perfection of civil life is a universal monarchy; in the second, 
that this perfection is incarnate in the Roman Empire, which 
is, so to speak, in abeyance, not repealed or done away; 


whilst in the third he defines the relations between the empire 
and the papacy, and maintains that loyalty to the one does 
not imply disrespect to the other. He asserts that Italy, as 
the centre of the Roman Empire, ought to be one, but rejects 
the conclusion that municipal privileges, so dear to his 
republican countrymen, should be forfeited to the emperor. 

The treatise De Vulgari Eloquentia deals at large with a 
subject to which Dante had already referred in the Convito 
the Italian language. Although utterly distinct from De 
Monarchic as regards its contents, it proceeds from the same 
intention, i. e. to pave the way for national unity. As in the 
case of De Monarchia also he writes for the learned, and 
what he essays to prove is that there are latent capacities in 
the Italian vernacular which would enable it to surpass its 
sister-dialects, and even to vie with the Latin from which it 
had sprung. Such a proposition at the time could only 
pass as rank heresy, as in the highest degree presumptuous. 
The way Dante sets about his task is this : he begins by 
investigating the origin of language. He next defines ver- 
nacular and grammatical speech. By the former he under- 
stands living languages in general, and by the latter dead 
languages, more especially Latin and Greek. From the 
concord of primitive speech he passes to the story of the 
Tower of Babel and the confusion of tongues, describes the 
spread of various languages, and having arrived at the south 
of Europe, distinguishes the derived languages as those of oc^ 
oil, and si, pausing on the last as the actual speech of 
the Italian people. He examines the nature and condition 
of the different dialects, and successively rejects them all, 
finding in them discrepancies from those models of Italian 
composition which had been circulating since the reign of 
Frederick II. Finally, he concludes that ' illustrious car- 

II.] DANTE. 25 

dinal, aulic' vernacular appears in all cities, but resides in 

We now come to the greatest poem ever produced in 
Italy, and, we may surely add, in Christendom. All that has 
been described hitherto, all the poetry and prose of Dante's 
precursors, and his own, derive a great part of their signifi- 
cance from the bearing which they have on the Commedia. 
The Commedia itself is a retrospect, a summary the to- 
tality of the middle ages. And it is Dante in his maturity 
and perfection. Whatever he at any time thought, felt, 
hoped, is here presented in its most artistic form. It is a 
splendid and culminating effort, in which the various threads 
of melody echoing in his heart and registered in his life are 
wrought up in a glorious climax. The scheme of the^- 
Commedia is somewhat as follows : The poet first imagines 
himself in a dark wood at the foot of a mountain. Here 
he is confronted by three wild beasts, a leopard, a lion, and 
a wolf, which appear to him one after the other and arrest 
his further progress. Then the shade of Virgil presents '\ 
itself and promises to show him the way out of the forest. 
He tells Dante that it was the express will of Heaven that he, 
like Aeneas, founder of the holy Roman Empire, and Saint 
Paul, the chief bulwark of Christianity, should visit the 
eternal regions. After a while, as they approach the difficult 
pass, Dante falters and entreats his conductor for some 
proof of his sufficiency. Virgil thereupon details to him how 
that three heavenly ladies, discerning his piteous case, had 
interested themselves in his deliverance. One he does not 
name, another he calls Lucia, and the third Beatrice. The 
pilgrim is reassured, and with this the poem is fairly 

Under Virgil's guidance Dante visits the circles and dun- 


geons of the damned, first passing Limbo with its amiable 
habitants of virtuous heathen and unchristened babes. He 
is the terrified spectator of those dreadful torments which 
are the familiar routine of hell. It may perhaps be noticed 
that many of the penal divisions have a coryphaeus or hero 
in some historic or legendary personage of note. Thus 
Plutus is lord of the covetous, Phlegyas of the wrathful, 
Minotaur of the violent, Geryon of the fraudulent, and 
Cacus of the robbers. The circles diminish on the pattern of 
a Greek fret, and the whole terminates in the gigantic person 
of Lucifer. At this point the travellers perform a summer- 
sault, and after more journeying arrive at the Antipodes. 
Here the sight of an exceeding high mountain greets them, 
like a sort of Jacob's ladder, connecting this world, which 
Dante conceives to be the centre of the universe, with the 
planets. This is the Mount of Purgatory, which is marked 
by various degrees, and at the top is the Earthly Paradise. 
The sufferings of Purgatory differ from those of Hell, not so 
much in their nature as in their duration and purpose. On 
arriving at the Earthly Paradise Dante passes out of the 
tutelage of Virgil into that of Beatrice, whose advent is 
signalized by triumphal pageantries. Beatrice is now a 
glorified saint, but she still manifests a pure memory of 
her ancient love by her habit of living flame. Then Dante, 
voyaging from glory to glory, visits the planets and fixed 
stars, each with its company of happy spirits, and is at 
length conducted to the presence of the Good Itself. The 
smile on Beatrice's face, which has been still growing in 
sweetness and in intensity, culminates, and Dante's vision 
is no more. 

Such, in the barest outline, is the sublimest poem of 
Christendom. What is its interpretation? That the wood, 

II.] DANTE. 27 

the hill, the lion, the leopard, the greyhound, Virgil, Dante 
himself, Beatrice, Lucia, and the Lady Merciful are alle- 
gorical, it is impossible to doubt, and one explanation of 
them is this : Dante, perceiving that he ha,s )oat hjs way\ 
in the forest of vice, attempts to raise himself to the heights 
of virtue, but luxury, pride, avarice, symbolized by the 
leojjaid^ theJion, and the wolf, hinder him from doing so. 
Moral philosophy, typified by Virgil, shows him the conse- 
quences of vice in the eternal punishment of the damned 
and the temporal punishment of the souls in purgatory, 
whilst theology, in the person of Beatrice, leads him to the_ 
sight of virtue as rewarded in the blessedness of the saints. 
Dante is thus induced to amend his life and return to the 
straight path. This is substantially Dante's own account of / 
the Commedia, to which he assigns a double meaning, some- 
what as Spenser does to his Faerie Queene. In the letter to 
Can Grande della Scala he writes, ' It is to be remarked that 
the sense of this work is not simple, but on the contrary 
I may say manifold. For one sense is th^f whirfa j^ flfiriv^fj 
from the letter, and another is that which is derived from the 
things signified by the letter. The first is called literal, the 
'second is allegorical or moral. The subject then of the 
whole work taken literally is the condition of the souls 
after death simply considered. For on this and around^) 
this the whole action of the work turns. But if the work/ 
be taken allegorically, the subject is man, how by actions \ 
of merit or demerit he justly deserves reward or punishment.'/ 

Some, investing these symbols with a political meaning, 
look upon the poem as a perpetual allusion to the vicissi- 
tudes of the author. Such a view, however, is hardly tenable. 
The political element is certainly not wanting, but the moral, 
the religious element is strongly in the ascendant. There 


is room perhaps for a compromise. Dante is a type of 
humanity redeemed by the blood of Christ. He is at the 
same time the symbol of Italian humanity which has gone 
astray from the straight path, has forsaken imperialism for 
democracy. Democracy is represented by the leopard, a 
creature as lithe and beautiful outwardly as it is cruel and 
merciless within. By the lion is meant the House of France, 
whose escutcheon bore that device, and the wolf is the 
church, whose ministers in too many instances were veritable 
wolves in sheep's clothing. Interpreting the poem thus, the 
aim of the Commedia is the reformation of manners in the 
world at large, and especially in the Italian peninsula. 

The chief feature in the style of the Commedia is its 
j objectivity. What Dante wishes to say is expressed in the 
| fewest possible terms, but his pictures are complete and in- 
Vcessant. He insists on making a minute inventory of his 
vast cosmorama a mode of treatment which a writer of less 
imagination would have found too exacting for a composi- 
tion of such length, or which, in other hands, might have 
resulted in the specification of loose and irrelevant details. 
With Dante, on the contrary, nothing is irrelevant ; his whole 
poem is charged with meaning. This fulness of significance 
Vmgjwfp a mngidprahlfi fax on the ingenuity of his com- 
mentators, who, ere now, have arrived at the most opposite 
conclusions as to the purport of his emblems ; and owing to 
this incapacity to understand him, charges of obscurity have 
been launched at Dante. Such accusations are by no 
means idle, Dante's brevity and concentration of phrase 
having their natural sequel in the perplexity and fatigue of his 

The greatness of the Commedia, its almost superhuman 
greatness, was at once recognised in Italy, where it was 

II.] DANTE. 29 

received as a kind of national Bible, and professors Boc- 
caccio being the first were appointed to interpret it. With 
scarcely an objector of importance, apart from Voltaire, 
who was also a disparager of Shakespeare, its reputation has 
remained constant, and nothing, we may be sure, but a 
universal cataclysm will extinguish it. 

Something should be said about the title. Dante named 
his poem the Commedia, and he has told us why because 
after many adventures it ends happily. The adulation of 
later times, the feeling that this name Commedia was all too 
mean for a poem of such rare excellence, prefixed to it the 
epithet divina, and thus it has ever since been known as the 
Divine Comedy. 

The intrinsic worth of the Commedia, as well as the uni- 
versal eclat with which it was received, were such as to 
discourage imitators, and the one or* two attempts made to 
rival it only served to show the nature of Dante's incom- 
parable triumph in still higher relief. Of Petrarch's ill-advised 
challenge it will be opportune to speak in the next chapter, 
but it may not be amiss here briefly to refer to two works, 
both in terza rima, and obviously inspired by the Commedia. 
The first is the Dittamondo, or as it is entitled in the older 
editions, Dicta Mundi of Fazio degli Uberti, grandson of 
the famous, or rather infamous, Farinata, It is an amalgam 
of history and geography, and performs for this world the 
office which the Commedia had performed for the next. It is 
not altogether without merit, Fazio being one of the most 
cultivated men of the age, but its recommendations are merely 
of the verbal sort. Except in those places where the author 
endeavours to be Dantesque, the style is remarkably neat 
and clear. The other work is the Quadriregio of Federigo 
Frezzi da Foligni, which deals with all four partitions of the 


universe, but, as compared with Dante's, Frezzi's point of 
view is more that of a pagan. The Quadriregio, though not 
a great poem, is distinguished by occasional passages of much 
force, and the versification is nearly always elegant. The date 
of these writings is not exactly known, but both appertain 
to the fourteenth century. 



THOUGH Petrarch and Boccaccio belong to the generation 
succeeding that of Dante, it is customary to class them 
together under the name triumvirate. The title is chosen 
somewhat unhappily, but the description has taken root, and 
apart from its associations, is certainly not without some 
basis in reason. Dante, the creator of Italian literature, 
Petrarr}], its grpafp^f; lyrical writer, and Boccaccio, the father 
. of Italian prngp. T stanH out from among the minor writers of 
the age like Titans, and on the ground of merit are suffi- 
ciently related inter se to allow of their being placed in a 
single category. But this classification has no validity outside 
the peninsula. Dante is a first-rate genius ; he takes rank 
with Shakespeare and Homer, literary demigods, whereas 
Petrarch and Boccaccio, at their greatest, are perfectly 
human, perfectly conceivable. Petrarch and Boccaccio are 
noble artists ; Dante is profoundly original. Whether Boc- 
caccio is to be preferred to Petrarch, or contrariwise, Petrarch 
to Boccaccio, it might excite a controversy to offer to deter- 
mine. As a poet at least, in spite of his inordinate ambition, 
Boccaccio must be content with the third place, the role of 
Lepidus, in the triumvirate. 

Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) was the son of a 
notary, called Petracco, who was banished from Florence 


with many more famous and eminent than himself, by 
Charles of Valois. He and his wife, Eletta Canigiana, 
betook themselves to Arezzo, where, about two years later, 
Francesco was born ; and ultimately they went to reside at 
Avignon, in the south of France. Here Petrarch grew up, 
and, a fact to which he probably owed much, he had as his 
tutor a Tuscan scholar. The circumstances of the family 
were not good, and Petrarch was sent by his father to the 
schools of Montpellier and Bologna to study jurisprudence. 
For a youth of Petrarch's temperament this was not a con- 
genial occupation, and he seems to have spent much of his 
time in surreptitious reading of the classics. His father dis- 
covered his propensity, and with a view to stopping the 
practice, surprised him and threw his books into the fire. 
But strict as he was, he relented at the sight of his son's 
consternation, and drawing two manuscripts, a Cicero and a 
Virgil, half burnt from the flames, replaced them in Pe- 
trarch's hands, while Petrarch, in an ecstasy of gratitude, 
promised that his sole care henceforth should be law. 

Not long after his parents died, a deplorable event, but 
not without its compensations, since for Petrarch the avenue 
was thus opened to fame and fortune. He became attached 
to the household of the powerful Colonnesi, by whom he 
was treated with the utmost affection and esteem, and he 
now definitely forsook jurisprudence for literature. At the 
age of twenty- two he happened to be in a church at Avignon, 
where he saw a beautiful girl, and instantly fell in love with 
her. Her name was Laura, she was then twenty years old, 
and she had been wedded two years before to Hugh de 
Sade, scion of a distinguished family of Avignon. The dis- 
covery of this fact made no difference in the warmth of 
Petrarch's affections. Avignon was the hotbed of troubadour 


traditions, whereby marriage with another was no bar to love. 
It was understood of course that the love was to be simply 
and strictly platonic, and such, it appears, was Petrarch's. 
Notwithstanding, he seems never to have been free from 
scruples on the subject, and if in his casuistical dialogues 
with Saint Augustine he talks of a moral improvement as 
the fruit of his passion, in his Letter to Posterity he thinks 
repentance a more becoming posture. It is quite gratuitous, 
however, to assail the character of Laura, who accepted the 
homage of the poet, but on his own testimony repelled the 
advances of the man. 

Petrarch's fame now rests on his Canzoniere. or lyrical 
poems, which describe the phases of his love for Madonna 
Laura, and consist of two main divisions, those written 
before the death of his mistress and those subsequent to that 
event. They are composed with exquisite art, and despite 
the indifference with which Petrarch affected to treat them, 
it is evident that he was no stranger to the use of the file. 
In 1642 Ubaldini discovered an autograph of Petrarch, the 
margins of which are crowded with variants, showing the 
insatiable desire which possessed him for perfection of form. 
About the skill and beauty of his sonnets there can be no 
controversy. For six centuries they have given him a place 
in the estimation of his countrymen on a plane with Ariosto 
and only a little lower than Dante himself. There remains 
a question, however, how far his emotions were deep and 

Perhaps we shall best hit the mark if we say of Petrarch 
that he is the~ pniiceTof sentimentalists. TEe title ' king of 
poets/ which the flattery of the age adjudged to him, he 
frankly disclaimed, not that he thought himself unworthy of 
it, but because he had de facto no sphere in which to exercise 



his sovereignty. The reader may suppose that he was 
pointing to Dante, by whom, with his magnificent trilogy, 
he had been effectually forestalled. Such, however, was not 
Petrarch's thought. He was the spoilt child of his time; 
and courted as he was by the great, followed, wherever he 
went, by the popular applause, he may be forgiven for some- 
what exaggerating his own importance, for failing imme- 
diately to realise the impassable gulf between himself, an 
excellent sonneteer, and a great constructive genius like 
Dante. The truth is, however, that Petrarch did not regard 
himself merely as a sonneteer, nor was it his aim, at any 
rate his sole aim, to distinguish himself by his vernacular 
writings. The poets whom he cites as in possession of the 
throne are Homer and Virgil, and it was by a Latin epic, 
Africa, that he hoped to attain immortality. On the strength 
of this poem he was solemnly crowned with laurel in the 
Campidoglio at Rome, and his prose writings in the same 
language are almost as numerous as those of Alexander 
Ross. He was also a diligent collector of manuscripts, and 
exerted himself in every way to resuscitate the study of the 
classics. Singularly enough the fraternity of learned men, 
steeped in mediaeval prejudices, refused to acknowledge him 
as a brother, and their verdict upon him was that he was a 
person of worth but illiterate. 

Late in life Petrarch seems to have awoke to the real 
tendency of the age, which was all in favour of the moderns, 
and the consequent danger to his own reputation. It was then 
that he attempted to buy back the precious time which he 
had wasted on learned miscellanies, but lacking either the dis- 
cretion or the power to strike out a new line, projected a work 
which was a faint reflex, an indistinct echo of the Commedia. 
The very metre, terza rima, betrays the source from which it 


was inspired, and a closer inspection of the poem reveals 
other points of resemblance which cannot have been acci- 
dental. The work is a series of Triumphs (Trionfi d'Amore, 
della Caslita, della Morte, della Fama, del Tempo^ della 
Divinita), of which the ostensible subject is the poet and his 
love, but which by implication takes in the destiny of man. 
Considered away from the Commedia, the Trionfi are very 
noble poems, set off by innumerable ornaments, and if some 
trace of artificiality be found in them, some word-play which 
is not quite in keeping with the dignity of the subject, such 
defects can hardly affect our judgment of the work as a 
whole. There is no great poet with whom, if we chose,, we 
cannot find fault in matters of detail. 

Petrarch, although he held ecclesiastical benefices, and 
had in the abstract a strong penchant for ethics, was by no 
means correct in his private life. Yet people were so in- 
fatuated with him that, in addition to his other honours, he 
was reputed a saint. The truest description of him is that 
of a voluptuous recluse. His politics, like his verses, were 
of the sentimental order. With the municipal factions of his 
day, as was only to be expected, he, a citizen of Avignon, had 
no sympathy, and, although he affected indignation at the 
presence of foreign arms in Italy, he took care not to com- 
promise himself, personally, with those (the King of Naples, 
for example) whose friendship was advantageous to him. 

With the Court at Avignon is associated the name of 
another Italian, Francesco da Barberino (1264-1348), who 
wrote two quasi-didactic poems, Document! d Amore and 
Reggimenti delle Donne. At the mention of the first our 
thoughts naturally recur to Ovid's Ars A men's and the 
Roman de la Nose, but the Documenti bear no resemblance 
to either. According to Francesco love is the mother of 

D 2 


the virtues. The latter, twelve in number, are treated sepa- 
rately in as many books, each being introduced by a proem. 
The work is chiefly remarkable for the luxuriance of its 
metres, which are perpetually changing. The Documenti 
were intended for gentlemen ; the Reggimenti delle Donne > as 
the name implies, for ladies. The latter is partly in verse, 
partly in prose, and there are occasional descriptive touches 
suggesting that Francesco might have attained to some 
eminence as a prose-writer. Unluckily he yielded to a 
temptation which almost proved fatal to Boccaccio, that of 
consulting his ambition rather than his faculty. 

Before treating of Boccaccio, we must refer to a group of 
writers who, although famous in another department of letters, 
were so far in agreement. with him as to make prose the chan- 
nel of their communications the three Villani. The eldest 
Giovanni (1*1348) undertook a formal history of Florence 
beginning, like the older chronicles, with the Tower of Babel. 
In the opening chapters he borrows freely from Malespini 
and similar authorities, reproducing their most extravagant 
fables without any attempt to correct them. When, however, 
he approaches the events of his own day, he puts aside 
this perfunctoriness and approves himself both an acute and 
an impartial historian. He was a Guelf in politics, and in 
1316 was one of the Priors of the city of Florence, but he 
castigates his own party with as little mercy as the Ghibellines, 
His obvious fairness, and the pains he was at to investigate; 
the causes of phenomena, constitute him an authority for the 
vicissitudes of Florence during the period in question. Ir 
1348 Giovanni Villani was carried off by the pestilence, but his 
work was taken up by his brother Matteo, and, subsequently 
by his nephew and the son of Matteo, Filippo Villani. Th< 
last mentioned wrote also, but in Latin, the lives of thos<i 


Florentines who up to that date had distinguished themselves 
in literature. 

Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) was the son of a mer- 
chant, commonly styled ' da Certaldo/ but the circumstances 
of his birth are otherwise not a little obscure. His mother is 
stated to have been a Parisian, and it was, and is, the preva- 
lent belief that he was born out of wedlock. The fact is 
worth noting, as Boccaccio, during the greater part of his 
life, was a libertine on principle, and seems to have been 
wholly untouched by that affectation of delicacy which led 
others as much as possible to spiritualize their emotions, if 
not in their hearts, at least in their confessions. He was 
brought up in Italy, and received his first lessons in the 
school of Giovanni da Strada. Hence he was removed in 
order that he might qualify for the career of a merchant. 
But Boccaccio, whose taste for literature had gained for him, 
whilst still a boy, the epithet of ' poet,' showed himself 
utterly unsuited for business, and his father, willing to gratify 
him, sent him to study canon law. According to one account 
his master was Cino da Pistoia. Boccaccio spent six years 
attempting to reconcile himself to this pursuit, but in the 
end gave up the struggle and abandoned himself to letters. 

Boccaccio's first essay was inspired by his passion for a 
lady who, he more than hints, was the natural daughter 
of King Robert of Naples. Boccaccio first saw her in 
a church, and the same year gave an idealised version of 
the affair in his Fiammetta. Some critics have doubted 
the truth of the narrative, and have detected contradictions 
in the different presentments of his amour, for to it he 
several times recurs, and evidently thought of it as highly 
praiseworthy. It is to be feared, however, that the unedifying 
recital was not mere boasting on Boccaccio's part. From 


relating his own adventures, Boccaccio proceeded to describe 
the loves of other people. He commenced with the story of 
Florio and Biancafiore mFilocopo, a prose novel, and this was 
followed by the Teseide (translated by Chaucer) and Filostrato, 
both of which were in verse. All three works are characterized 
by the same general traits. Though in the last two instances 
the subjects are drawn from the sphere of classical mythology, 
the manner in which they are dealt with is throughout 
romantic. Except for the first-named accident Boccaccio 
might have been claimed as the creator of the new romantic 
epic. In both poems he uses the ottava or eight-lined stanza, 
the invention of which has been sometimes, though erro- 
neously, ascribed to him. 

Hardly as might have been thought, Boccaccio was a 
devoted lover of Dante, and attempted a poem on the same 
lines as the Commedia. The Amoroso, Visione, for this was 
the title of the poem, was written before Petrarch's Trionfi, 
to which it is decidedly inferior. The fact is Boccaccio, 
with all his powers of description, was entirely destitute 
of the faculty which success in this class of writing pre-emi- 
nently demands that of executing vivid and striking images 
in a few pregnant touches. Boccaccio, who in Filostrato 
and Teseide had already shown a predilection for classical 
mythology, returns to the same source in two other com- 
positions his Caccia di Diana and Ameto. The former is 
a symbolical representation of the Court of Naples. The 
Diana Partenopea of the piece is Queen Giovanna, and the 
nymphs are her ladies. These are all described under their 
own names, except Fiammetta, who, it appears, was really 
called Maria. Ameto, as the name suggests, is a pastoral. 
A medley of prose and verse, it afterwards served as a model 
for Sannazzaro, Bembo, and Menzini. The author entitled 

;; ; 


Commedia delle Ninfe fiorentine^ and Ameto is shown in it 
as a father-confessor, to whom a bevy of ladies confide their 
secrets. Madonna Fiammetta, who is of the party, details 
her love-passages with the poet, and Ameto is at length won 
from his churlishness to a duteous adoration of the sex. 

None of these works became popular, chiefly because 
Boccaccio made a point of importing into the language Latin 
constructions, and even went so far as to fashion his style on 
the precepts of rhetorical treatises to which Latin authors 
themselves seldom conformed. His Life of Dante, however, 
which is written in a charmingly simple vein, proved an 
exception to the general fate of his writings, partly no doubt 
from the subject, which Italians found very interesting. 
Another exception was his Corbaccio, a long malediction 
against the race of women, and especially a certain widow, 
to whom Boccaccio had thought proper to pay attentions, 
and who, in return for his flattery, had only quizzed him. 
Boccaccio, the gallant, the hero of numerous conquests, in 
his rage at this discomfiture, behaved like a wild boar, and 
attacked blindly and indiscriminately the entire female sex, 
which at other times he so passionately worshipped. This 
extraordinary change of front and the heartiness of his ob- 
jurgations naturally drew attention to a work which will 
always keep its place as a literary curiosity. In addition to 
his Life of Dante, Boccaccio, who was appointed by the City 
of Florence to lecture on the Commedia, began a commentary 
on that work which he did not live to complete. His greatest 
achievement, however, is beyond question the Decanter one > a 
volume of tales in prose, the origin of which was as follows : 

In 1348 Florence was decimated by the plague, and 
Boccaccio feigns that seven ladies and three cavaliers, in 
order to escape the horrors of the pestilence, retire to a 


country-house, where they beguile the time by telling stories. 
This continues for the space of ten days, whence the title of 
the book (ScVa ij/i/pai). Boccaccio was not at Florence when 
this visitation occurred ; therefore he saw nothing of the 
calamities attending it, but, in order probably to lend dignity 
to his work, he sets out with an historical exordium in which, 
on evidence collected from other people, he describes the 
ghastly episode. The Decamerone is almost entirely free 
from Boccaccio's characteristic faults. He neither obtrudes 
his learning nor does he, as in his earlier works, waste him- 
self on accessories. If he still clings to the period, it must 
be owned that he is master of it. He found Italian prose 
crude, undeveloped, and left it, after various experiments in 
which, as we have seen, he was not wholly successful, mature. 
The Decamtrgne is rpmark^]^ foi^Ua fiiL&hlJU!^ d,lid*vaiJ.ty A 
The author seems bent on displaying his versatility, and 
changes from grave to gay with surprising ease and with no 
sensible diminution of power. The reputation of the De- 
camerone was immense and not confined to Italy. France, 
Germany, and Spain speedily possessed themselves of it 
through the medium of translations, while in England it 
suggested to Geoffrey Chaucer the idea of the Canterbury 

Great, however, as was the popularity of the Decamerone 
among the laity, it incurred the censure of the Church, They 
were unwilling, however, to give him up to the conse- 
quences of his own evil life, and in 1361 Boccaccio received 
a visit from a certain Frate Ciani, who had been com- 
missioned by a dying Carthusian to warn him of his ap- 
proaching end and exhort him to repentance. Boccaccio 
was panic-struck, and in the depth of his contrition would 
have taken measures for the destruction of his entire works. 


Before finally committing himself to this step he wrote to 
Petrarch, who ridiculed his fears and strongly dissuaded him 
from the sacrilegious act. The shock, however, was too 
much for Boccaccio's stoicism. He destroyed his unpublished 
vernacular writings, got back as many copies as he could of 
his published works, especially of the Decamerone, and wrote 
to friends whom he knew to possess copies not to allow them 
to be read by women and children. The caution was not un- 
necessary, but it would be too much to allege that Boccaccio 
had a deliberate object of corrupting the morals of the age. 
It was rather the morals of the age which corrupted Boccaccio. 

No account of this famous writer would be complete with- 
out mention of him in another character that of an enthusi- 
astic student of Greek literature. In 1360, the next year 
after his paroxysm, he fell in with a certain Leonzio Pilato, 
who was a native of Calabria and had spent many years in 
the Levant. This man, who, to quote Boccaccio's description, 
was a walking library, was induced to stay three whole years 
at Florence, where Boccaccio lodged him at his own house 
and listened to him reciting the poems of Homer. Instructed 
by what he had heard, Boccaccio put forth a mythological 
work, or, as he called it, a Genealogy of the Gods. Largely 
through his example a number of clever young men dedicated 
themselves to the same noble study ; and ultimately Chryso- 
loras was elected by the Florentines professor of Greek at 
the public charge. 

The Decamerone was quickly followed by other works of a 
similar scope ; first of all, by the Pecorone of Ser Giovanni 
Fiorentino. Compared with its model, the Pecorone is a very 
limp performance. A sober youth of Florence makes love 
to a sober nun of Forli, and having won the connivance of 
the prioress and sisters to their very innocent expressions of 


attachment, he makes it his practice to visit the convent at a 
certain hour, when the pair relate stories. These stories are 
all that can be desired from a moral point of view, but the 
writer possesses no imagination, and his sole merit, if he has 
any, lies in his style, which, though not splendid, is clear, 
simple, and direct, and well adapted to the purpose of 
narration. A novelist of a very different stamp was Franco 
Sacchetti (? 1330-1400), a contemporary both of Boccaccio 
and Ser Giovanni. He was a Florentine magnate, and spent 
the greater part of his life in the service of the state. He 
essayed many sorts of composition, beginning with poetry. 
He was particularly successful in light verse and satire, and 
for their excellence some of his writings have been thought 
worthy to be compared with Berni's. Sacchetti wrote also 
some hundreds of love sonnets, but he is now remembered 
chiefly, if not exclusively, for his novels, of which he proposed 
to write three hundred, and actually completed two hundred 
and seventy-eight. Although very slight, his stories are 
models of construction. They display no slavish imitation 
of Boccaccio. Sacchetti indeed is in some respects the 
antithesis of this last. Boccaccio, even in the Decamerom, 
was still something of a poet, a scholar, an artist, a philosopher 
in short, an idealist. Sacchetti, on the contrary, was a man 
of the world, a shrewd intent observer of external things. 
Therefore in his work rather than the Decamerom we must 
seek the germ of the modern novel. 



THE fifteenth century, the period at which we have now 
arrived, is marked by the development of two distinct species 
of literature the drama and the romantic epic. About the 
success of the Italians in the termer" there has never been 
any doubt, but critics, both within the peninsula and without, 
have often lamented the feebleness of the Italian stage. This 
view of the matter is not entirely just. Italy, it is true, can 
boast of no Shakespeare, but a nation which has produced 
an Alfieri, a Goldoni, and created the classic opera and the 
classic pantomime, can hardly be termed poor in dramatic 
qualities. At present, however, it will be proper to consider 
the Italian play in its more primitive state. In Italy, as in 
Europe generally, the drama was revived under the protecting 
aegis of the Church. The purpose of the clergy in fostering 
the art seems to have been twofold. Partly they wished to 
present object-lessons in religion, partly to guard against the 
license into which popular exhibitions were too liable to 
degenerate. These ecclesiastical performances were known 
by various names. They were called mysteries, moralities, 
feasts, miracle plays, but the generic description of Italian 
mediaeval plays was representations. In the north of Europe 
such works were nearly always gross and inartistic, and often 


profane in tone, but from the worst of these faults the Italian 
examples are conspicuously free. 

The first dramatic composition which merits serious atten- 
tion is by a contemporary of Dante, Albertino Mussato 
(12621329). The drama to which he gave the name of 
Ezzelino de Romano is in Latin, but claims a place here as 
founded on events of the age and appealing to popular 
sympathies. It is conceivable that if Mussato had been a 
Florentine instead of a native of Padua, he might have 
employed the vernacular, but the Paduan dialect was very 
unlike literary Italian, and even the latter supplied no models 
of dramatic writing. It is therefore easy to understand why 
Mussato imitated as nearly as possible the Latin tragedians, 
and wrote in their language. A still earlier play, supposed to 
date from the time of Frederick Barbarossa, and in Latin 
very barbarous Latin, however is of a yet more popular 
character. Its subject is the coming and death of Antichrist, 
and many believe that it is from the hand of the Emperor 
himself. It is notable as the earliest specimen of melo- 
dramatic composition in modern times, but as it is not in 
Italian, any more extended notice of it would be out of place. 

The origin and chronology of Italian representations are 
both excessively obscure. Villani, under the year 1304, 
alludes to a custom which he says was of long standing at 
Florence the custom of exhibiting in spectacular form 
popular ideas of the other world; and from the terms of 
his reference he would seem to imply that the actors spoke. 
It is probable therefore that this was a play of the same 
general description as that which has been just mentioned, 
but almost certainly in Italian. With regard to the subjects 
of the representations they are drawn for the most part from 
the Old and New Testament and the Lives of Saints, but 


instances occur in which the writers, overstepping these limits, 
deal with scenes of everyday life. The most unsatisfactory 
are those which are directly based on Biblical narratives, as 
the dramatist could not there make free use of his imagina- 
tion without exposing himself to the charge of profanity. 
Such works are therefore little more than mere verbal repro- 
ductions of the Sacred Text. The dramas suggested by the 
chronicles, lives of the saints, and episodes of common life 
have far more colour and vivacity, but are deficient in 
measure and proportion. It is likely that they were pro- 
duced with a great deal of splendour, as they were written 
for occasions of public rejoicing, and the services of famous 
artists Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, Pollaio, &c. were demanded 
for the decorations. 

Nor were the playwrights altogether insignificant. As 
respects the majority of these dramas, it is true, the author- 
ship is unknown, but this is by no means universally the 
case. The most celebrated of these early dramatists is Feo 
Belcari (1410-1484), but he owes his prominence less to his 
own merits than to his having obtained the suffrages of the 
Dellacruscans. It may fairly be questioned whether he is 
actually superior to Castellano Castellani, a more prolific 
writer, or to Antonia, wife of Bernardo Pulci. Pulci him- 
self wrote dramas, and even Lorenzo de' Medici did not 
disdain the attempt. The metre of the representations is 
commonly the ottava for the dialogue, while the lyrical 
portions copy the rhythms of the canzonet. Occasionally the 
terza rima is used. Oddly enough to our notions, where the 
personages include a doctor of law or medicine, whole stanzas 
of Latin hendecasyllabics are foisted in, as though it were 
understood that such learned persons spoke only that tongue. 

The attitude of men of learning towards the sacred repre- 


sentations is a subject of deep interest. It was not wholly 
friendly. Bernardo Pulci and Castellano Castellani, cer- 
tainly, were professors, and another playwright, Alessandro 
Roselli, was a renowned writer of Latin verses, but then they 
did not regard the drama seriously. They wrote either for 
their own amusement or the diversion of their audience. The 
growing enthusiasm for antiquity, which is so marked a 
feature of the fifteenth century, brought the representations 
into still greater disfavour with the world of learning. The 
contemporary drama knew no distinctions of tragic and 
comic, lyrical and satirical, but all these elements were 
present in inextricable confusion. To the multitude, for 
whom the spectacle was designed, there may have appeared 
nothing very dreadful in this state of things, but scholars, 
when they came to know and admire the masterpieces of 
Aeschylus and Sophocles, seem to have felt a kind of despair 
and relinquished all attempts to improve the native play. 
This was unfortunate, as the representations, with all their 
extravagance, afforded a more promising field to anyone pos- 
sessing real abilities than study and imitation of the ancients. 
The first author of an Italian drama is usually stated to 
have been Angelo Poliziano (1454-1494): but Po^liziano, a 
great scholar, was the author not of the first Italian drama, 
but of the first classical Italian drama. Not that there was 
any essential difference in structure or method between his 
OrfeOy at least in its earliest form, and the Representations, 
but the poet, having received the compliments of the learned 
on his attempt, fancied that he could improve on his first 
sketch, and without making any sweeping alterations in the 
plot, re-touched the poetry and divided the drama into 
five acts. Thus the regularity of the Orfeo is in a certain 
sense an accident, since the author, if he had sought the 


applause of scholars, would no doubt, following the prece- 
dent of Mussato, have written in Latin, whereas if the 
entertainment of the lay-people had continued to be his 
object, he would have left the Orfeo as it originally was. 
Probably for this reason the example proved sterile. 

After all, it must be confessed that this first period of the 
Italian drama is not brilliant, though it deserves more atten- 
tion than is usually paid to it. The fortunes of the new 
epic poetry were very different. 

The romantic epic is enriched by three streams of legend 
which have to do with Arthur of England, Charlemagne, 
and Amadis of Gaul. Of the three Charlemagne, from an 
Italian point of view, is incomparably the most important. 
He is to Christendom what Aeneas was to Rome, and his his- 
torical character has been entirely superseded and overlaid by 
his mythical or acquired personality. The chief repository of 
the legends concerning him is the Latin chronicle of S. Jago, 
attributed by its author to Archbishop Turpin, the Emperor's 
spiritual peer, and the N. French chansons de geste^ which were 
very popular in Italy. Charlemagne's real exploits in Germany 
where he defeated the Saxons, and in Italy where he over- 
threw the Lombards, were not forgotten, but romancers delight 
in celebrating his expedition to Spain, despite its calamitous 
issue. The reason is not far to seek. The Moors stood in 
the same relation to the Emperor's Prankish chivalry as the 
Saracens afterwards stood to the Christians. Hence it was 
easy for writers to invest their narrative with associations and 
sentiments which had grown up during the Crusades. 

The primitive home of the romance was in North Gaul, 
and it long remained a French monopoly. Dante in his 
De Vulgari Eloquentia states that all romances of chivalry 
dispersed throughout Europe were in the French language. 


This assertion and his complete silence as regards Italy seem 
conclusive that there were up to that time no Italian romances, 
for, had there been any, Dante would certainly have heard of 
them, and would almost as certainly have quoted them. Never- 
theless, three early narrative poems, imitated from the French 
and entitled Spagna, Buovo d ' Antona, and Regina Ancroja, 
have been thought to be anterior to Dante, not from external 
evidence, but from the difficulty of supposing that verses of such 
rude workmanship can have been composed subsequently. 
One thing is known that down to the closing years of Pe- 
trarch's life romances were little esteemed among the learned. 

Romances were of two kinds : the earlier intended to be 
sung, which were in verse, and those of later type in prose 
which were read or recited. Thus in addition to the three 
poems before cited there is an excellent prose harmony of 
the Cycle of Charles the Great, entitled Reali di Francia, 
and one still more celebrated to which Boccaccio refers in 
his Corbaccio as a popular romance of the fayFebus. As 
to the writers of these works we are completely in the dark. 
After 1400 the romances were quickly multiplied, and the 
interest of their material attracted superior intellects, e.g. 
Luigi Pulci and Boiardo, who perceived that they could be 
turned to excellent account with new handling. 

Pulci (1431-1484) was the author of an epic called after 
one of the personages, Morgante Maggiore. The real hero 
is Orlando [Roland], nephew of Charlemagne, who goes 
in search of adventures. During part of his travels he 
is accompanied by a giant whom he had forcibly converted 
to Christianity, the same Morgante. It is significant that 
Charlemagne is here stripped of many of his venerable 
attributes, and appears as the confederate and dupe of the 
traitor Gano [Ganelon]. Pulci's object in thus violating 


tradition doubtless was to exalt Orlando, who gains additional 
eclat from the contrast of his uncle's imbecility. In the 
epilogue, however, Pulci makes tardy reparation to the great 
emperor, recalling his thousand benefits and naming him 
divine. This variation of the Morgante from previous accounts 
signalizes a new departure in letters. Hitherto romancers 
had clung timidly to the authentic tradition, and respected 
the autobiographic version, as it was thought, of Archbishop 
Turpin. Pulci breaks through this restraint. Adhering to 
the theory of a historical foundation, he taxes the chroniclers 
with an omission. 

The question has been raised, in what sense the Morgante 
is to be understood. Is it a sincere and serious writing? 
Portions of it are so extravagant, so grotesque, so bizarre, that 
the idea has inevitably occurred to some minds that the poet 
nourished a design similar to that of Cervantes, and in reality 
was merely mocking at the institutions of chivalry. This 
notion, however plausible at first, seems to be refuted by the 
circumstance that the age was still to a large extent under 
the sway of romantic sentiments, with ^jpjch Pulci was hardly 
the man to place himself in conflict. Turthermore, the work 
was taken up at the desire of Lucrezia Tornabuoni, a very 
religious lady, who begged Pulci, already famous for his 
ballads, to compose a poem on Charlemagne. The capricious 
mixture, therefore, as it seems to us, of the various sorts of 
literature in Morgante, requires a different explanation. The 
truth is, Pulci wrote at a time when there existed no canons 
of taste to guide or dissuade him in the conduct of a 
vernacular epic. Hence it is characterized by the same 
multiplicity, the same chaos of ingredients which we have 
already observed in the drama. 

The Morgante, faulty or not, was immensely relished, and 


from 1401, the date of its first publication, to the close of the 
century, ran through five editions. It was in all probability 
the success of this romance which induced Count Matteo 
^Boiardo of Scandiano (1434-1494) to attempt a similar feat. 
With admirable judgment he did not imitate the eccentricities 
of Pulci. He cultivated, rather, a grave style, with the result 
that the Orlando is loftier, more epic than the Morgante. 
The hero is in both instances the same, but supports a 
different character; in the Morgante he is a chafed and 
angry warrior, in the Orlando the lover of Angelica. The 
latter is wholly the creation of Boiardo, though, like Pulci, 
he affects the historian, and makes out that Turpin has 
ignored the affair, as derogatory to the paladin. Altogether 
Boiardo sketched no less than sixty-nine cantos, but it may 
be inferred from the cast of the poem that he contemplated a 
still larger work which was to embrace the whole of chivalry. 
His Orlando has many merits. The episodes are disposed 
with considerable skill, the characters are well drawn, and 
the situations dramatic, but the romance has one defect for 
which all these excellences only imperfectly atone: the 
execution is rude. Not only are provincialisms frequent, 
but verbiage which needs to be pruned, and versification 
which is not always harmonious, contribute to mar the 
delightfulness of the poem. It has been twice reconstructed, 
at the hands of Domenichi and Berni. The rifacimento of 
Domenichi is now forgotten, but Berni's version may almost 
be said to have saved Orlando Innamorato that and the 
famous continuation of Ariosto. To both these poems there 
will be occasion to refer later. 

The length and particularity with which these epic com- 
positions have been described may tend to disguise from 
some minds the discredit into which the vernacular literature 


had actually fallen. It is well therefore to insist that none 
of these writings, neither the Morgante of Pulci, nor Boiardo's 
Orlando, are at all comparable with the masterpieces of the 
age which preceded or of that which came after. Alfieri 
summed up the period in a memorable phrase ' il quattro- 
cento sgrammaticava ' (' the fifteenth century was a solecism'). 
The sentence is rather too sweeping, or admitting its applica- 
bility, it is true only of a portion of the time under review. 
The fact is, barbarism rushed in like a flood soon after the 
death of Petrarch (1375), and continued to infect the native 
literature to the middle of the ensuing century, after which it 
slowly receded, until a new and brilliant era the 'golden 
age/ as it has been called was inaugurated in 1494. 
Politically this year was one of the most unlucky in the 
annals of Italy, being the date of the invasion of Charles VIII, 
but it put an end to certain conditions which rank among the 
principal causes of the decline of Italian literature. Without 
some explanation a good deal of what has just been said 
would remain a riddle. A short paragraph, therefore, may 
be fitly dedicated to a statement of the causes why vernacular 
composition was not maintained at the height to which 
Dante and Petrarch had brought it. 

The reader will not have forgotten that Petrarch and 
Boccaccio had, as it were, a dual personality, and were 
divided in their allegiance between the Latin and the Italian 
muse. The restoration of classical Latinity as the medium 
of polite writing was the dream of Petrarch's life, and 
Boccaccio, as we have seen, was a fervent propagator of the 
same literary cult. The epoch which we have just been 
considering produced the harvest of which they sowed the 
seed. All the able young men were absorbed in philology, 
archaeology, philosophy. The revival of learning, it may 



almost be said, was the extinction of originality. It was not 
merely that they wrote in Latin, but being in perpetual dread 
of committing a solecism, and thus exposing themselves to 
the same ridicule which they launched at the scholastics, they 
were sorely hampered in expressing their ideas. The spell 
which these pursuits exercised over the choicest spirits of the 
age has been likened to the glamour of the Crusades. Just 
as the Knights hoped to win back the Holy Land from the 
impious pagans, so it was the generous ambition of Italian 
scholars to win back the glorious past of Latin civilisation. 
Prominent among the supporters of the new movement was 
Cosimo de' Medici, the great merchant of Florence, who was 
virtual tyrant there, and, like Pisistratus of Athens, was the 
founder of the first public library in his native city. Another 
friend of the humanists was Pope Nicholas V, and it might 
have been expected that Pius II who, as Aeneas Sylvius 
Piccolomini, had been a voluminous writer, would have 
shown equal enthusiasm. On his elevation to the Papacy, 
however, he forsook the humanities for religion, promoting 
crusades and other extravagances which were no longer in 
keeping with the temper of the age. Paul II, reverting to the 
policy of Eugenius IV, did not even tolerate the humanists. 

The first to raise the vernacular literature from the low 
estate into which it had fallen was Lorenzo, grandson of 
Cosimo de 7 Medici, and surnamed ' the Magnificent' (1448- 
1492). In a conclave of the Academy, an institution founded 
by Cosimo, and including among its members Pico della 
Mirandola, Angelo Poliziano, Marsilio Ficino, it was solemnly 
decided that the vernacular was worthy of study. Lorenzo 
himself led the way by inditing poems in Italian, Nencia de 
Barberino, the plaint of a country swain, and Beoni^ which 
professes to describe the adventures of certain drunkards, j 


Already reference has been made to Angelo Poliziano as a 
dramatist. To this must be added a few words with respect 
to his Stanze, a work which he is said to have written at the 
extraordinarily early age of fourteen. In the year 1468 were 
held two tournaments to celebrate the conclusion of peace 
with Venice. In the first Lorenzo de' Medici won the prize, 
whilst Giuliano was victorious in the second. Lorenzo's 
triumph was commemorated in a short poem by Pulci, and 
Poliziano was prompted by his success to attempt a much 
longer and more ambitious effusion on the joust of Giuliano. 
Although written in Italian, the Stanze read like a translation, 
or at least adaptation, from some classical author. His 
Poesie Varie or minor poems are more original. 

In the sphere of poetry these are perhaps the only works 
which merit distinct mention. Regarding prose, the character- 
istic product of the age, and clearly derived from the study 
of Plato, is the Dialogue. This was the form in which 
Galileo, long after, published his conclusions, but in the six- 
teenth century it was put out of fashion by the grammarians. 
The chief work of the sort belonging to the age with which 
we are now dealing is // Governo di Famiglia, formerly 
attributed to Agnolo Pandolfini, but of which Leone Battista 
Alberti, who wrote also on architecture, appears to have been 
the author. 



AT the commencement of the sixteenth century Italian 
literature had already completed its cycle. After this, although 
there was no lack of writers, no new forms were developed, 
and, except in prose, hardly any real progress was made in the 
art of composition. Yet the era has been named, for reasons 
which will shortly appear, the Golden Age. A good deal of 
misconception exists with regard to the personages who, 
either as authors or patrons of literature, attained distinction 
during this period, especially two, of whom it will be 
necessary to speak at some length, since the one has been 
unjustly maligned, the other not less unjustly extolled. 
These are Leo X and Machiavelli. The general opinion 
of the former is that he was, not indeed a model Pope, but 
with respect to culture, the incarnation almost of good taste, 
the Augustus of the sixteenth century. There is no doubt 
some colour for this belief the Pope was at least a scholar 
yet it is certain that Leo X cared infinitely more for the 
aggrandizement of the Medici than learning or the fine arts. 
A notable instance of his hatred of candour and true dignity 
in others is his behaviour to Michelagnolo, and the writers to 
whom he owes his fame were courtiers, mere venal scribes, 


hardly more worthy of esteem than the clowns with whom 
at other times the Supreme Pontiff took his pleasure. With 
the exception of Raffael, not a great man then living profited 
by Leo's favour. Patronage of men of learning was indeed 
one of the attributes of a prince, but the persons whom Leo 
elected to subsidize were, in many instances, teachers of 
rhetoric or grammar with no obvious claim on his generosity. 
Ariosto was rewarded by an empty kiss on the cheek. 
Machiavelli, whom he had commissioned to draw up a con- 
stitution for Florence, provoked his displeasure by his pa- 
triotic republican ardour. The scheme was torn up and 
Machiavelli left unrewarded. Giannotto and Nardi fared 
no better. It is hard to perceive therefore in what way 
literature was benefited by the pontificate of Leo X. 

The conduct of the other Medici, several of whom were 
prominent during the same epoch, testifies to a similar 
degeneracy. Nevertheless, the chief historic interest of the 
period, so far as Italy is concerned, centres around this 
remarkable family, and the most dramatic event in the annals 
of the time is the attempt of the Florentines in 1527 to 
shake off their yoke. Most of the prose-writers of the age 
were mixed up in this affair, and it forms the subject of 
several histories to which allusion will be made in the sequel. 
At present we must return to Machiavelli, whose character, 
after centuries of calumny and misrepresentation, has been 
in some measure rehabilitated. He is now acknowledged to 
occupy in prose a position similar to that of Dante in poetry, 
and to be unquestionably the most colossal figure in the 
literature of the sixteenth century. 

Kiccold Machiavem (1469-1527) was the son of a learned 
jurisconsult and a poetess, and he seems to have inherited 
an equal degree the talents and inclinations of both his 



parents. He entered into the public affairs of Florence, where 
he held for some time the high office of Secretary of the 
Republic. Being a warm lover of freedom, however, he in- 
curred the suspicions of those who were bent on subverting 
the old institutions, and was deprived of his post. He there- 
upon retired to his country-house, and devoted himself to the 
composition of those works which have since gained for him 
universal interest and renown. The most famous of them is 
// Principe, a scientific presentment of certain very abstruse 
results which he had accomplished in his commentary on 
Livy a treatise on political science. In spite of its evil 
savour, it was written, there is every reason to believe, with 
the best intentions. The actual design of Machiavelli is to 
show on what terms sovereignty can be attained and upheld, 
human nature remaining what it is. // Principe at first sight 
presents no ideal, and this is probably the reason for the dis- 
appointment and disgust with which many, especially modern, 
readers have perused it. Certainly Machiavelli takes a very 
low view of ordinary morality, but the facts with which ob- 
servation and experience had rendered him familiar in practical 
life, justified and almost necessitated this pessimism. Machia- 
velli had a political, as well as a scientific aim, in writing the 
book, and it was not adverse to liberty. He looked (as he 
tells us clearly in the last sentence) for the regeneration of Italy, 
the expulsion of the foreigner, the unity of rule. His work, 
in fact, was composed with a view to the freeing of his country 
by some petty prince whose skill and genius, assisted by the 
counsels of wise men, were to do what indeed was done later 
by the Savoyard princes. All this was perfectly understood 
at the time, and, had it been otherwise, Machiavelli's career 
is eloquent in his defence. His other works also strongly 
make for the assumption that // Principe was an honest book. 


Instead of this it came to be regarded as a convenient manual 
for tyrants, and it is probable that no book has ever done 
more harm to its author or more mischief to humanity. 
Charles V, Catherine de Medicis, Henri III and Henri IV, 
made it their daily companion, and its fame having reached the 
Levant, Mustapha III caused it to be translated into Turkish. 
More recently Napoleon Buonaparte is said to have studied 
it in the hope of discovering some hints for the maintenance 
of his huge and ill-gotten empire. 

Very different from // Principe are Machiavelli's Discorsi 
on the first ten books cf Livy, the ethical portions of the latter 
being quite unexceptionable. The Discorsi were written in 
order to illustrate modern history by the light of past events, 
and the author takes occasion to refer at length to various 
questions of contemporary interest, notably in the tenth 
chapter of the twelfth book, where he discusses the hindrances 
to Italian unity. Another work of Machiavelli somewhat 
resembling the last is his Dialogues on the Art of War, in 
which he displays a deep and, for a layman, astonishing 
acquaintance with military science. He distinguished him- 
self also as a historian. If Villani is the Herodotus of Italy, 
Machiavelli is her Thucydides. Between them there had been 
no prose-writers of importance. True, there had been Latin 
historians, Leonardo Aretino, Poggio Bracciolini, and Bembo, 
men of sufficient note in their way, but their mode of treating 
history was extremely artificial, while the writings of Corio 
and Malvolti are woefully lacking in style. To Machiavelli 
therefore pertains the honour of restoring historical literature 
in Italy. His chief work in this department is his History of 
Florence, which is in every way remarkable. He begins with 
a general survey of European history, from the fall of the 
Roman Empire to the rise of the Italian Republics, a 


precedent which has been followed by nearly all the greater 
historians. Not only in this introduction but also in the 
main body of the narrative Machiavelli writes as a philosopher, 
not content with stringing together a number of facts, but 
seeking to arrange them so as to show their inter-dependence. 
The style is admirable lucid, piquant, and free from man- 
nerisms, the model of what a historical style should be. 

The next considerable name in the roll of historians is that of 
his countryman and contemporary, Guicciardini ( 148 2-1 5 40). 
He was one of the prime movers in the counter-revolution 
which made Cosimino de' Medici Duke of Florence. Guic- 
ciardini had stipulated as his reward that he himself should be 
the young man's foster-father and his daughter duchess. No 
sooner, however, had Cosimino secured himself on the throne 
of Florence than he immediately ignored these pledges, and 
Guicciardini withdrew in high dudgeon to his country-house 
at Arcetri. To console himself for this mortifying defeat, he 
wrote a general history of Italy, commencing from the descent 
of Charles VIII and extending to the year 1534. This work 
is of great importance, since the events which it records had 
the effect of so fixing the political conditions of Italy that 
they remained unaltered to the French Revolution. More- 
over, Guicciardini is not only an excellent writer, but he 
possesses what is an indispensable requisite in a historian 
a sincere love of the truth. 

It is a favourite charge to bring against Guicciardini that 
he is diffuse, that his sentences are too long, and one editor, 
by a copious use of commas and full stops, has pla-ced him in 
splints. This process of rectification, however, has not had 
the desired effect, for the intricacy and length of Guicciardini's 
periods are due, not to carelessness, but to complexity of 
thought. A feature which he shares with Machiavelli and 


other writers of the age is that of manufacturing speeches and 
putting them into the mouths of real personages. This 
habit they borrowed from the ancients, but it lends an air of 
unreality to their pages, making them seem romance rather 
than history. Less illustrious than Guiccardini as a writer, 
but more estimable as a man, is Jacopo Nardi(i 476-1555)? 
who, after failing in an attempt to restore the republic, with- 
drew to Venice and occupied himself with literature. He 
produced an admirable version of the first ten books of Livy 
and an arid history of the revolution of 1527. Bernardo 
Segni (1504-1558), another historian of the same dramatic 
episode, was blest with a more attractive style. He was a 
diligent translator and a member of the Florentine Academy, 
but the work by which he hoped to win favour with posterity 
was his history. It was written in defence of his maternal 
uncle, Niccolo Capponi, a noble patriot, who died of grief at 
seeing his native city enslaved; and Segni composed it in 
secrecy. The manuscript was found after his death and put 
into the hands of Cosimo. The prince having discovered 
that it was incapable of being edited on account of its plain- 
spokenness, it was for a long time neglected, and when 
eventually it was printed, bore the false imprint, Freiburg. 

From these examples it became evident to Cosimo that he 
could not hope to silence the historians. Whether he wished 
it or not, they would write, taking as their theme the actions 
of his ancestors and his own. He was driven therefore to 
another expedient that of bribing authors. Among those 
who were parties to this shameful bargain was Messer Bene- 
detto Varchi (1502-1565), the story of whose adventures is 
ludicrous as well as sad. A very learned man, he was a perfect 
child in the ways of the world. When therefore he was re- 
quested by Cosimo to draw up a history of the times, he 


accepted the commission with delight. He had made some 
progress with the work when he submitted it to Cosimo's 
hearing. The style was tedious, but that did not offend the 
Duke half as much as the statements which were surprisingly 
frank, and Benedetto had to be reminded by a prick of the 
stiletto that princes are not persons to be trifled with. Hence 
at the close of his work there is a marked change of tone. 
The other Medici might be sinners above all men, but the 
present occupant of the throne could not be excelled. He 
was an angel of light. Two other writers in the pay of 
Cosimo, Scipione Ammirato (1531-1601) and Giovanni 
Batista Adriani (1512-1579), adopted another method of 
escaping his resentment, without distorting facts, i.e. whenever 
they came to anything awkward, they passed it over in silence. 
Neither is deserving of much regard. 

All these writers were natives of Florence. Elsewhere in 
the peninsula the most distinguished historian was Camillo 
Porzio (1526-1603), who wrote an account of the conspiracy 
of the barons against Ferdinand of Naples, a little work 
which is almost unique in respect of terseness and elegance. 
A general history of the kingdom of Naples was composed by 
Angelo di Costanzo (1507-1591), who bestowed on it in- 
finite pains, but who with all his talents and industry failed to 
reach Porzio' s high level of excellence in this branch of litera- 
ture. Angelo was also renowned as a Petrarchist. As the 
result of a movement to which we shall immediately refer, 
history now degenerated into a mere exhibition of style. As 
examples of these deliciae may be cited the Europa of Giam- 
bullari and the Storie of Daniello Bartoli, which were 
greatly appreciated at the time, but, except as evidence of a 
perverse tendency, do not come within the sphere of this dis- 
cussion. A wholesome corrective might have been found in 


the works of Tacitus which Bernardo Davanzati (1529 
1606), remembered also as one of the earliest writers on 
political economy, translated about this time. Unluckily 
Davanzati himself was too much infected with the vices of his 
age to be of much service in bringing about a reform. 

The Latinists of the sixteenth century were succeeded in 
the next by the grammarians, who applied themselves to 
purifying the Italian language, and formed themselves into a 
school of critics. The reader will not have forgotten the 
Accademia Platonica, whose resolution in the time of Lorenzo 
the Magnificent had produced so beneficial an effect on 
Italian literature. Somewhat on the model of this institution, 
but at first without official recognition, was established 
another academy, whose members dubbed themselves umidi. 
Cosimo, always on the watch for opportunities of strengthen- 
ing his position, determined to give it his sanction. / He 
altered its name to Accademia Fiorentina, and appointed as 
its officers a consul and two councillors. After this institution 
had been some time in existence, a schism arose among its 
members, and Anton Francesco Grazzini (1503-1583), 
better known by the name of Lasca, was expelled. Un- 
willing to give up criticism, he joined with several friends 
in forming a private club, in which for their own diversion 
they discoursed on literature. The celebrated Lionardo 
Salviati was invited to their assemblies, and on his proposal 
a regular academy was instituted, with the quaint description 
4 della Crusca/ The meaning of cruse a in Italian is ' bran,' 
which the baker separates from flour by bolting ; and the 
new academy, conformably with its title, undertook the task 
of freeing the vernacular from improper ingredients. The 
members fixed on the fourteenth century as the age of gold, 
and among the writers of that period selected, as was most 


natural, Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio as models. The 
choice of the first was inevitable, it was hopeless to think of 
deposing the greatest of Florentines from the place which he 
occupied in public esteem, but more after the Dellacruscan 
mind, to which their very faults seemed virtues, were the lesser 
lights, Petrarch and Boccaccio. 

In order to expedite their plan the academicians resolved 
to compile a dictionary, a notable undertaking which could 
hardly fail to be serviceable to the Italians themselves and to 
other nations which might perchance imitate it. A question 
arose as to the proper name of the language. In the earliest 
times, as we have seen, it was called Sicilian, and afterwards, 
because that province had been most prolific in writers and 
those of the highest distinction, Tuscan. Among the cities 
of Tuscany, however, Florence was easily the first in cultiva- 
tion and refinement, and the speech of the people approached 
most closely to the literary dialect. The Dellacruscans there- 
fore proposed to christen the language Florentine. A fierce 
controversy broke forth on the subject, and the whole 
peninsula was in arms for the Italian character of the 
language. It was a propos of this that Georgio Trissino 
published his translation of Dante's De Vulgar i Eloquentia, 
in which, as has been before shown, the author impartially 
condemned the dialects of all the cities, including his own. 
The contest was accentuated and rendered personal by a 
quarrel between Ludovico Castelvetro and Annibale Caro, 
over a poem which the former had written in honour of the 
Royal House of France and Caro had sharply criticised. 
The world of letters split itself into two camps, and Varchi, 
the historiographer of Cosimo, leapt into the fray with his 
enormous tome Ercolano, wherein he laboured to prove, in 
several hundred pages, that the language ought to be called 


Florentine. Varchi, however, neither convinced nor quelled 
his adversaries, and the dispute went on smouldering for a 
century or more. 

The most noted member of this celebrated academy was 
Salviati, who will always be remembered as a persecutor of 
Tasso. Under the pseudonym of ^Nfarinato and assisted by 
a companion in arms, Bastiano de' Rossi, whose nickname 
was 'Nferrigno, Salviati wrote several polemical pieces against 
the poet, designed to tarnish the laurels which the latter had 
so worthily won. Tasso attempted a reply and in it sought 
to defend the memory of his father Bernardo, whom Salviati 
had brutally assailed. Tasso 1 s mild expostulations, however, 
only provoked a fresh attack. Salviati, betaking himself to 
Ferrara, prevailed on the Duke Alfonso, whom the poet had 
extolled in his Gerusalemme, basely to accept the dedication 
of a book by which Tasso was finally suppressed. Of that 
more anon. 

It is impossible to believe the fascination which these 
puerilities exercised over the most variously constituted minds. 
The rage for them seems to have been universal. Isabella 
Orsini, the daughter of Cosimo de' Medici, indited a treatise 
on the adverb mai y and the illustrious Galileo, when thirty 
years of age and therefore fully capable, one might have 
thought, of estimating such matters at their true value, turned 
his attention to grammar and helped to plague the soul of 
poor Tasso. One of the most characteristic products of this 
insipid school was the cicalata, a kind of mock oration on 
some trivial subject, the Lemon perhaps or Tarts. Originally 
it was an after-dinner speech delivered at a banquet which 
was given by the consul of the Academy on the day when he 
took office. Hence it became a recognized form of com- 
position for all who delighted in such inanities. 


Turning from this folly to works to which may be applied 
the term ' literature/ we are at once struck with the luxuri- 
ance of the novel. During the reign of the humanists it had 
been by no means eradicated, but had clothed itself in a rind 
of Latin, in which it was cultivated by innumerable aspirants. 
The most noteworthy perhaps of these Latin novels are the 
Facetiae of Poggio Bracciolini. After the revival of interest 
in the vernacular literature, the novel regained its place as 
the most popular form of literature. Here also Machiavelli 
is facile princeps. He is said by Bandello to have written 
several tales, but only his Belfegor has survived to our days. 
Conceived in a comic spirit, it is full of inimitable touches of 
life and character, and the style is at once graceful and 
vigorous. The Accademia della Crusca, which in this par- 
ticular set no very great store by Machiavelli's productions, 
made an exception of Belfegor, and placed it in the canon 
of Italian classics. 

Another novelist, and one of the most original writers of 
the age, was Lasca, already mentioned as the founder of the 
Dellacruscan Academy. His forte was undoubtedly personal 
satire, but unfortunately Lasca was not in a position to do 
justice to himself. He was one of a class to which the 
sixteenth century gave rise, the professional litterateur^ and 
being compelled to earn his living by his pen, he was unable 
to give to his works that artistic finish which, had circum- 
stances been more propitious, with his splendid endowments, 
he could no doubt have imparted to them. Finding that the 
fashion set entirely towards fiction, and that the world was 
being flooded with Diver timenti, Notti, Diporti, Mesate, 
Ecatommithi and such like, Lasca, who had at first protested, 
made his appearance in the same field and produced his 
Cene, in which, forsaking the quaintnesses and fopperies of 


Firenzuola ; he brought back the language to a manly 
simplicity and directness. Instead of basing his style on the 
humours of the grammarians, he drew upon the resources of 
the spoken language, and this feature, more than the vividness 
of his portraiture, constitutes the peculiar excellence of his 
writings. The truth of this observation will become more 
evident if we compare the novels of Lasca with those of 
Molza, Parabosco, Luigi da Porto, and Bandello. The 
difference is to be attributed to the superior charm of the 
Tuscan dialect, which gave the natives of that province an 
immense advantage over non-Tuscan writers. For all that, 
Bandello, with the sole exception of Machiavelli, is incompar- 
ably greater than the Florentines, and on the score of pro- 
ductiveness even Machiavelli must be postponed to him. 
Bandello devoted himself exclusively to novel-writing (in 
which he was the first after Boccaccio to achieve distinction), 
and amid the swarm of story-tellers who, in proportion to 
their readers, were as numerous then as they are now stands 
forth as the most original. He introduced nothing new in 
the form of the novel, but, uniting the character of the 
historian with that of the novel-writer, depicted with quite 
marvellous fidelity the outer life of his contemporaries. 

The novels of the period exhibit an almost painful 
uniformity. As to the nature of these compositions, refer- 
ence has already been made to the immorality of the 
Decamerone, and it has been considered how far Boccaccio 
is accountable therefor. The writings of the succeeding 
age, oddly as it strikes us, whilst indulging in the same 
freedom, affect pious sentiments. Even Pietro Aretino boldly 
professes to be moved by a desire for the glory of God and 
the benefit of his fellow men. The half or wholly hypo- 
critical plea of these philanthropists is that it is necessary, if 



people are to swallow the wholesome draught, to smear the 
vessel's edge with a sweet liquid. 

But these writers were realists who drew their materials 
impartially and cynically from the life which they saw around 
them. At the same time the spirit of reform was in the air, 
as was evident at the Council of Trent, and to this was due 
the canting and apologetic tone of the professors of an art 
which was essentially profane. Some novelists, it is true, like 
Sebastiano Erizzo in his Sei Giornate and Cinzio Giraldi 
in his Ecatommitti) sought to liberate themselves from the 
debasing traditions of their craft, and wrote wholly on moral 
lines ; but, partly from lack of ability, they quite failed in their 
mission. In any case the people did not ask to be edified. 
As a class these novels have other defects also. They display 
considerable invention, but little tact in the development of 
the plot, and being confined to a few pages, they have the 
appearance of sketches or jottings for some larger work. 
Again, the unbroken continuity of the narrative, almost un- 
enlivened by snatches of conversation in which the actors are 
permitted to speak for themselves, deprives these works of the 
dramatic interest good modern novels exhibit, and which in 
Italy at this period belongs rather to the dialogue. 

One kind of composition which deserves a passing 
mention is that which consists in imitation of the classic 
satirical novels of the popular Apuleius and Lucian. The 
most important of these writings are Gelli's Capricci del 
Bottaio and Circe and the Discorsi degli Animali and Asino 
d' Oro of Firenzuola, all of which were extremely popular in 
their day and translated into several foreign languages. 

The dialogue, of which an instance was quoted at the close 
of the last chapter, now acquired extraordinary vogue. Per- 
haps the most noteworthy specimen of these polished didactic 


colloquies is the Cortegiano of Baldassare Castiglione 
(1478-1529). The author was a perfect type of the gentle- 
man of the period, and he sets before us a faithful portrait of 
the ideals of the Court of Urbino to which he belonged, and 
which was a meeting-place of all that was distinguished in 
rank or intellect throughout the peninsula. // Cortegiano has 
its full share of defects. It abounds in the ineptitudes which 
are so marked a characteristic of the age, but in style it leaves 
little to be desired. In this respect it will worthily compare with 
the writings of Tasso and Sperone Speroni, whose achieve- 
ments in the higher departments of literature have caused 
their prose lucubrations to be in some measure forgotten. 
The dialogue, as has been said, owed its development to the 
revival of learning, principally, no doubt, to a translation of 
Plato's works which was published towards the end of the 


.Jdrteenth century by Marsilio Ficino. 

Another result of these studies was the impetus they gave 
to letter -writing. Guittone's example does not appear to 
have been generally followed, and the true source of inspira- 
tion was beyond question the letters of Cicero and Pliny, 
together with the spurious epistles of Plato, which erudite 
Italians burned to imitate. Among the first to print his 
letters was Pietro Aretino, greatly to the distress of the more 
respectable portion of society which he had omitted to con- 
sult. Amid much extravagance of language and thought, 
they show considerable power of expression and help to in- 
terpret the life of the Venetian society in which he and 
Titian and other men of mark moved. Better in every way 
are the epistles of Tasso, Speroni and Bembo ; but even 
these, in freedom and choice of language, hardly attain to 
the level of some Tuscan writers notably Giovanni della 
Casa (1503-1 556), whose studied efforts, such as his Galateo, 

F 2 


on the contrary, are stilted and full of mannerisms. Apart 
from these, perhaps the best letter- writer of the age is Anni- 
bale Caro, the antagonist of Ludovico Castelvetro, and an 
excellent critic. Others prefer Bonfadio, who wrote some 
charming epistles ; but taken as a whole his letters do not 
exhibit that grace and fluency which are the chief distinction 
of Caro's and constitute the primary merit of this species of 

No notice of this age would be complete which did not 
include two celebrated writers, who have a common centre 
in art, and who both wrote their own biographies. The first 
is Giorgio Vasari of Arezzo (1511-1574); the second, Ben- 
venuto Cellini of Florence (1500-1571). Vasari, a pupil of 
the great Michelangelo, but himself of no high merit as a 
painter, published in 1550 Vite de piu eccellenti Pittori, Scul- 
tori ed Architetti. The author put forth a second edition of 
the work, greatly enlarged and improved, in 1568. Being a 
dutiful vassal of the Medici, who employed him to decorate 
the Palazzo Vecchio, Vasari dedicated the book to the Duke 
Cosimo. Vasari was well qualified for his task. He was 
distinguished by infinite enthusiasm for the arts, as well as 
by inexhaustible industry in research ; if he was not a first- 
rate practitioner, he at least possessed good taste, to which 
he added an adequate knowledge of the technique of the 
subject, as is shown by the elaborate treatise which forms 
the preface of his work. For modern readers the charm of 
the book undoubtedly lies in the vivid portraits which it con- 
tains of the artists themselves. Vasari had a keen eye for 
character, and he was prompt to seize on typical actions, 
and sometimes strange aberrations, for illustrating the true 
nature of the men whose career he was describing. These 
' touches of nature ' redeem the Vite of Vasari from being a 


mere catalogue of works of art, and invest them with human 
interest. Vasari has had many editors who have studied to 
correct his mistakes, of which, as was natural in so large and 
varied a compilation, there were not a few. 

Cellini was a goldsmith, and skilled in all the mysteries of 
his craft. He piqued himself also on his literary attainments, 
and wrote himself down a poet, but his claims in this respect 
cannot be allowed without some important reservations. It 
is undeniable that he owes his world-wide celebrity to his 
pen ; but, although a diligent student of Villani and Dante, 
Cellini was a very faulty writer. Errors either in grammar 
or syntax appear on every page indeed, it is hardly too 
much to say, in every line. With all this, his autobiography 
is very pleasant reading. Cellini lived in days of unwonted 
excitement, and had his full share of adventures. He was at 
Rome at the time of the sack, and assisted in the defence of 
the Castel S. Angelo ; he was thrown into prison on a false 
charge, and made a bold attempt to escape by letting himself 
down from a tower ; and he came in contact with many 
notable persons artists, men of letters, popes, and princes. 
Out of these varied experiences, he has woven a narrative 
which could scarcely be excelled in interest, while at the 
same time it bears the stamp of truth. 



WHILE literature, in a general way, suffered from the cul- 
tivation of mere elegance, one species displayed unparalleled 
vigour and went far to justify the complimentary description 
of the sixteenth century as the Golden Age. The allusion is 
of course to the Italian epic. In the fourth chapter its history 
was traced as far as to the publication of Boiardo's Orlando. 
As was there observed, the epic was popular in its origin, 
and such it remained. The learned might debate, if they 
chose, about the rules for the construction of a poem on the 
model of the Iliad, but the people did not lose their taste for 
romance ; and they were soon to be gratified by a superb 
composition, which at once threw into the shade all previous 
performances, and which has never since been equalled. 
^ Ludovico Ariosto (14741533) \vas born at Reggio and 
attached himself to the House of Este at Ferrara, which Count 
Boiardo had already celebrated in his Orlando. Notwith- 
standing the fact that he had from the first cherished an un- 
bounded admiration for that great poem, Ariosto was so far 
infected by the prevailing fashion as to begin his career of 
authorship with dramatic compositions imitated from Terence 
and Plautus. The epic Orlando, however, retained its attrac- 
tions for Ariosto, who, perceiving its defects, might have been 



tempted to recast it, as was afterwards done by Berni, but 
that an inborn sense of genius wrought with him to essay 
something original and containing the promise of a nobler 
fame. When he had decided to write an epic, he requested 
the learned Bembo for advice. That admirable scholar was 
not a foe to the Italian vernacular in general, but, like others 
of his order, entertained a rooted prejudice to the romance. 
He accordingly recommended Ariosto to compose his poem in 
Latin. Fortunately Ariosto had sufficient independence to 
disregard this advice and write in Italian. Another point 
on which the poet seems to have hesitated was the metre. 
Dante's terza rima was the stateliest, but in epic vernacular 
composition the ottava was prescriptive, and therefore not 
lightly to be set aside. There was this objection to its use 
that Ariosto's scholarly predecessors had neglected it, 
the only exception being the polished Stanze of Poliziano. 

It was in all probability this precedent which confirmed 
Ariosto in the resolution not to abandon the traditional 
metre, and it would have been lamentable if he had deter- 
mined otherwise. Ariosto's genius was itself too rich and 
luxuriant, and the nature of Italian romantic ptfetry too fan- 
tastic and airy, for any but the freest and most exuberant 
of metres. The subject of the poem is Orlando [Roland], 
whom Ariosto conceives to be driven mad by the cruelty of 
Angelica. Hence the title Orlando Furioso. After ten years' 
toil the great poem first saw the light in 1516. It was recog- 
nised as a continuation of Boiardo's romance, and therefore, 
it was thought, could only be properly appreciated after a 
perusal of this last. That in a sense is true. Ariosto con- 
sciously followed in the wake of his predecessor ; neverthe- 
less the impression left by the Orlando Furioso is perfectly 
individual and distinct. Ariosto was no servile copier of 


Boiardo, any more than Boiardo had been of Pulci. Certain 
types of character were traditional, and other points of corre- 
spondence between the two poems, such as the passages in 
which the author addresses his readers in propria persona, are 
common to the class and are far from implying on the part 
of Ariosto any special dependence on his immediate model. 

All this in reference to the subject-matter and general de- 
sign. When we come to examine the details we are at once 
sensible of an immense advance. The rude workmanship of 
Boiardo's Orlando is nowhere reflected in that of Ariosto, 
whose touch is always sure. 

One of the more conspicuous merits of Ariosto' s poem is 
its infinite variety. We may take as an instance his descrip- 
tion of personal combats, of which, as is natural in a chival- 
rous composition, there is a constant succession. Yet no two 
of his duels are alike. His personages also, though they may 
exhibit a general resemblance, are never to be confounded. 
Rodomonte, we feel, is distinct from Ferrau. Mandricardo 
is not Gradasso, nor Ruggiero, Orlando. This appears faint 
praise, until we remember that Ariosto was not a free agent. 
He was not in a position to deal summarily with the creations 
of popular fancy, which in their way were just as real and 
palpable as the shapes of history, and he was especially ham- 
pered by the uniformity of the actions which produced a cor- 
responding likeness in the actors. If, therefore, diversity in 
the characters was desired, it could only be brought about by 
close attention to particulars. 

It is in his mastery of detail that Ariosto evinces his 
superiority. His similes often surprise us by their force 
and felicity, joined sometimes to a certain homeliness as for 
instance when he compares Orlando's inexpressible anguish 
on finding proof of Angelica's treachery to the efforts of water, 


when the vessel containing it is inverted, to issue through the 
narrow exit. To all these virtues must be added perfection 
of style. Of this no better evidence is needed than the fact 
that the Tuscans, who were commonly very unwilling to con- 
cede this praise to anyone outside their own province, were 
among the most reverent admirers of the Orlando Furioso. 
Notwithstanding, however, Ariosto's unremitting study of the 
best authors, the first edition of his poem was not exempt 
from solecisms. There were Lombard words and phrases, 
Lombard spellings, which detracted somewhat from the other- 
wise happy effect. Owing to circumstances, the nature of 
which has not been ascertained, it fell to his lot to pass some 
time in Florence, and Ariosto seems to have availed himself 
of this opportunity to correct his inadvertences. At any rate,, 
in 1532, sixteen years after the first, a second edition ap- 
peared, which came as near to perfection as it could well be 

This fact is deserving of note, as hardly any poetry pro- 
duces in the mind of the reader such a sense of spontaneity 
as that of the Orlando. The verse is so fluent that we can 
scarcely persuade ourselves that Ariosto took any trouble 
over it. Yet his manuscripts testify that as an artist he was 
conscientious in the extreme. Some of his stanzas, indeed, 
were written no less than fifty times. That they run so 
smoothly and pleasantly after so much labour is the final 
proof of Ariosto's supreme attainments. In spite of its many 
and varied merits the poem has not gone unchallenged. One 
difficulty, which has exercised the minds of some, respects the 
unity of the poem. It has been looked upon as a string of 
inconsequent episodes, involving no general plot; and it must 
be admitted that there is much on a casual reading to excuse 
such a view. Further study will reveal that there are two or 


three principal groups, around which the minor figures are 
ranged as accessories. Amidst a number of less important 
incidents, the dominating facts, to which all else is ancillary, 
are Charlemagne's enterprise against the Saracens, Orlando's 
frenzy, and the marriage of Ruggiero and Bradamante. An- 
other defect which has given just offence is the frequency of 
monologues in which the personages with a tiresome garrulity 
enlarge on their sorrows. In some of these speeches it is 
easy to detect the falsetto as of some Petrarchist who tries to 
fancy himself in love. But, after all, such faults are not 
serious, and considering the greatness of the poem, it would 
be ungracious to insist on them. The Orlando Furioso is an 
imperishable monument of the height to which imagination 
can attain in its more favoured representatives. 

Ariosto's success could not but affect the fortunes of the 
Orlando Innamorato. Its want of style, which had never 
been in doubt, was rendered more than ever apparent by 
comparison with its successor, and it was precisely at this 
juncture that Berni produced the celebrated rifacimento. 
Berni, however, himself (1497-1535) is sufficiently interest- 
ing to merit an independent notice. He was a Florentine of 
good family ; but, as his means were small, his only resource 
was to become a hanger-on at Court. The consequences in 
his case were tragic. He made himself acceptable both to 
Alessandro and Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici ; but, the rela- 
tions between the pair being anything but cordial, the story 
goes that Berni was requested by Alessandro to poison his 
kinsman. The poet was horrified, and refused; but his 
patron, having found other means of ridding himself of his 
cousin, soon after, in anger at his recusancy, poisoned the 
unhappy Berni. Fortune had all along been unkind to him. 
He had every qualification for becoming a great poet, but 


the atmosphere in which he lived was fatal to his intellectual 
development. Before he undertook the revision of the 
Orlando Innamorato his talents had been chiefly employed 
on a species of poetry which has been named after him 
bernesque, and the origin of which was as follows. 

Among other expedients to which Lorenzo de' Medici 
resorted for making his usurpation more palatable to the 
Florentines was his encouragement of public shows, especi- 
ally during the carnival season, when masked troops were 
wont to parade the city singing. For the ditties hitherto in 
vogue were substituted by Lorenzo certain rigmaroles, which 
were afterwards known as carnescialeschi, and the performers 
simulated drunkenness. These effusions were written by the 
best poets of the day, including Machiavelli, to order ; but 
Berni had a distinct predilection for them, and in the number 
and variety of his writings far outstripped his competitors. 
Towards the end of his life there seems to have dawned on 
him a sense of his extraordinary powers, and of the miserable 
waste he had made of them ; he accordingly resolved to re- 
deem what time there was left him by application to some 
work which would ensure his remembrance. 

To write an epic appeared the best road to fame, but Berni 
was well advised in not attempting one. After the Orlando 
Furioso it could only have been felt as an anticlimax. Berni 
set himself to a more humble task, and sought by a tasteful 
revision of the Orlando Innamorato to render it more worthy 
of its fellow. This he effected with a considerable degree of 
skill, and it is due to his pains that Boiardo's poem is still 
read and esteemed. But, although an amendment of the 
style was all Berni' s contribution, even in this he cannot be 
allowed unqualified praise. The truth is his previous occu- 
pation somewhat unfitted him for writing in a dignified strain 


such as becomes an epic. Colloquialisms were quite in place 
in the canti carnascialeschi ; in a poem like the Orlando they 
are an offence. Nothing, however, can be more unfair than 
to tax Berni with the design of turning the whole work into 
a burlesque. In confutation of such a theory it is only neces- 
sary to point to the manifest improvement which has resulted 
from his labours. Berni invested a poem, grandly conceived 
indeed, but imperfectly executed, with the rich and incom- 
parable graces of his native dialect, and therefore it is with 
justice that he divides the credit of the performance with the 
original author. 

Meanwhile there had appeared certain poems which were 
more or less feeble imitations of the Orlando Furioso, the 
most notable being the Girone of Luigi Alamanni (1495 
1556) and Bernardo Tasso's (1493-1569) Amadigi. The 
latter is remarkable chiefly on account of its subject, for until 
then writers of epics had drawn their materials almost exclu- 
sively from the Carlo vingian cycle. But neither this innova- 
tion nor the merits of the poem need arrest us. It is as clear 
as the day that Ariosto completely defied competition. Par- 
tially, perhaps, out of a recognition of this fact, poets, or those 
who aspired to the name, sought for laurels in a different 
field, occupying themselves indeed with the composition of 
epics on the model of the Iliad and Aeneid. The first to 
attempt this experiment was Gian Giorgio Trissino (1478- 
1550). His industry, however, was lamentably thrown away. 
Choosing as his theme the expedition of Belisarius against 
the Goths, who had invaded Italy and menaced her with 
perpetual thraldom, he gave as title to his work, L Italia 
Liberata. Trissino' s principle of selection was unexception- 
able. Coleridge declared that an epic ought either to be 
national or mundane. Trissino proposed to make his epic 


national, and if he went back to a somewhat remote stage of 
Italian history, the antiquity of the subject might be expected 
to lend it additional dignity. A priori all was favourable to 
the execution of a really great work ; but it was just at this 
point that Trissino broke down. His talents were absurdly 
disproportioned to his opportunity. His faults are mainly 
two. In the first place, he is not satisfied with copying Homer 
he fairly reproduces him. The Eternal Father is a Zeus 
redivivus, except for a few touches which could not be given 
without manifest profanity. As for the other gods of Olympus, 
they are represented by the celestial hierarchy. This perhaps 
might pass if Trissino had shown any capacity to go alone ; 
but at every step he shows his dependence on Homer, stealing 
his best episodes only to mar them. 

In fact L' Italia Liberata is a travestie. The poem was 
written in blank verse, and this was another reason serving 
to render it unpopular. It seems doubtful whether Trissino 
or the historian Nardi, in various now-forgotten comedies, 
was the first to employ this sort of verse in Italian ; but certain 
it is that the experiment as an epic verse did not please. Of 
the different forms which poetry can assume there is none 
which requires more delicate handling than this blank verse, 
which sinks with fatal facility into prose, and in an age which 
was tolerant of cicalate Trissino was found insufferable. The 
calamitous issue of an attempt from which he had hoped so 
much was calculated to put others on their guard, and in 
some instances may have had that effect. There were, 
however, some spirits who, not perceiving this and flattering 
themselves that they could succeed where Trissino had failed, 
reiterated the effort. 

Trissino, with all his faults, was respectable for his learning ; 
but among his followers were men, like Olivieri, who lacked 


even this recommendation ; and their productions, such as the 
Alamanna of this last, which was based on contemporary 
history, were mere impertinences. But an exception must 
be made in favour of an individual Luigi Alamanni who 
has been already mentioned as the author of a romance, and 
who, as will be seen later, composed an excellent didactic 

Alamanni, although now almost forgotten, was a person 
of considerable importance in his own day, both in the sphere 
of politics and in that of letters. He conspired against Car- 
dinal Giuliano, the representative of Leo X, and the plot 
having been detected, he fled to Venice and eventually to 
France. Some years later he returned to Florence, but, 
having offered some unpalatable advice to the Republic, 
he embarked, in company with the celebrated Andrea Doria, 
for Spain. Finally, he made his abode in France, where 
Francis I and Henry II availed themselves of his talents in 

Alamanni was perfectly aware of the ill-success of 
Z' Italia Liber ata, and he set himself to meditate on the 
cause. He came to the conclusion that the fault lay in the 
verse, and decided to write a poem similar in other respects, 
but in the octave stanza. He drew his narrative from the 
legends of the Round Table. Just as the Iliad was named 
after the town of Ilium, so Alamanni' s poem is called Avar- 
chide from the ancient name of Bourges, which in the same 
way undergoes a siege and is at last captured. A further 
analogy is found in the characters. Thus we have presented 
to us, as it were, pseudonymously, Agamemnon, Achilles, 
Thetis, Patroclus, who, with the fewest possible changes in 
the stage furniture, rehearse their accustomed parts. The 
result showed that Alamanni in his interpretation of Trissino's 


failure had erred. The Avar chide fared even worse than 
L' Italia Liber ata. Indeed, after exciting a momentary in- 
terest, it passed clean out of men's minds. In spite, however, 
of all this, the Christian Italy of the Renascence was to have 
her vates sacer the sublime Tasso. 

This rare genius was the son of Bernardo Tasso, who had 
gained a distinguished place in the literature of his country 
by his romance Amadigi. But although he had himself won 
renown as a writer, and perceived in his son indications of 
still greater ability, he stumbled at the risks which he knew 
to beset this pursuit, and tried to persuade Torquato to adopt 
a more regular and lucrative profession. It should seem also 
that something of jealousy, lest his son's reputation should 
in time obscure his own, seconded these misgivings. 

Torquato Tasso (1544-1595) was certainly a prodigy. 
As a child of eight he read the classics, both Greek and 
Latin ; at twelve he was versed in the sciences ; and at 
eighteen he wrote an epic poem, Rinaldo. Upon reading 
this Bernardo felt that he could no longer oppose his son's 
inclinations by forcing him to a study so little to his mind as 
jurisprudence. Stifling his parental fears and the less worthy 
feelings by which he had been visited, he gave him his bless- 
ing and suffered him to take his own course. 

Rinaldo had been received with a chorus of approbation, 
which emboldened Tasso to make fresh efforts. Like Luigi 
Alamanni he reflected on the conditions of success, but more 
in the spirit of a philosopher. He consequently attained to 
a full and complete understanding of the theory of his art, 
which no one has ever expounded more luminously. In 
choosing his subject Tasso displayed great judgment. The 
Gerusalemme Liberata was at once national and universal. 
It was par excellence a religious poem ; and as Italy was the 


centre and sun of Christendom, it set her special glory con- 
spicuously before the world. But Catholic Christianity shed 
its rays over the whole of Western Europe and claimed a 
universal validity. In that sense the Gerusalemme Liberata 
was of world-wide interest. In addition to this the poem 
was in admirable accord with the circumstances of the age. 
The Turks, not yet under the effete government they now 
have, were pushing their conquests to the very walls of Vienna, 
and it was proposed to form a league for the purpose of 
crushing them. 

Tasso's poem was the fruit of long and patient thought. 
He left nothing to chance, to the inspiration of the moment, 
but sketched the general plan and pondered even the details 
before he sat down to write. His work when complete was 
a marvel of simplicity. So distinct and beautiful is the sym- 
metry that the only instance in which the principle of unity 
is violated has excited the more remark. This is the story 
of Olindo and Sofronia, which in its particular place is clearly 
an intrusion. Tasso, who did not deny the justice of the 
criticism, had a special motive for wishing to retain the pas- 
sage, since it enabled him to express his own sentiments 
towards the Princess Eleonora. 

In his delineation of character Tasso idealises. His 
Goffredo is the perfection of the Christian warrior. If there 
is something godlike in the composition of his hero, it is little 
more than we can reconcile With human nature at its best. 
It must be admitted, however, that such faultless beings, 
though conceivable, do not engage our sympathy. To the 
ordinary mortal, conscious of much infirmity, they seem cold 
and unamiable. The Gerusalemme presents a remarkable 
contrast to the Orlando Furioso and its congeners, all of 
which appealed to the barbaric element in man, the love of 

VI.] THE POETS. 8 1 

external show and colossal achievement. The Gerusalemme^ 
on the contrary, is a poem of civilisation, for Tasso was 
careful to preserve, according to the ideas of the age, the 
vraisemblance of his story, and his personages do not exe- 
cute feats which are manifestly incongruous and absurd. 
They bespeak our homage by a moral elevation which, though 
more worthy of esteem, is in general less captivating than 
frank achievement. In describing the enterprise for reco- 
vering the Holy Sepulchre, Tasso was manifestly possessed 
by feelings like those of Milton and the elder bards of 
Greece and regarded his vocation as sacred. Look at it 
from whatever point of view we may the moral or the 
artistic the poem always strikes us by a certain impeccability. 
The verse is of Hyblaean sweetness. 

The Gerusalemme was no sooner published than a general 
commotion arose. Ariosto was now firmly enthroned in the 
hearts of the public, and there was an instinctive feeling that 
he was threatened, that his supremacy was at stake. Hence 
all the rancour of partisanship entered into the discussion of 
the two poems. In an unlucky hour for Tasso a certain 
Camillo Peregrino, a complete stranger to the poet, wrote a 
book in which he sought to establish the superiority of the 
Gerusalemme Liber ata to the Orlando. This avowed prefer- 
ence for a new and ambitious attempt deeply annoyed the 
members of the Accademia della Crusca, and the resources 
of that formidable institution were employed for the ignoble 
purpose of annihilating a great man. Salviati, already pointed 
out as the ring-leader, drew a recantation from Peregrino by 
the promise of an academic diploma. At length Tasso, the 
mark of so many shafts, found himself isolated. The criti- 
cisms of his enemies, so far as they had to do with the aesthetic 
side of the poem, were dry and out of date. Tasso was tried 



by laws to which his predecessors had conformed, but which 
he himself had deliberately rejected. Blinded by their pre- 
judices, and bound by the decisions of an infallible conclave, 
his judges had no feeling for the exquisite charms with which 
the Gerusalemme was everywhere resplendent. But in regard 
to the style the academicians did detect faults. The Orlando 
Furioso, it will be remembered, on its first appearance had 
been open to the same censure. Tasso was so far shaken 
by the pertinacity of these attacks that he actually re- wrote 
the poem, to which, in its altered form, he gave the name of 
Gerusalemme Conquistata. This was so much labour lost. 
His contemporaries did not cease wrangling, and later 
generations, more indulgent to its peccadilloes, have been 
unanimous in preferring Gerusalemme Liberata. 

The contest as to the superiority of Ariosto or Tasso is 
really one which depends on individual taste. Ariosto repre- 
sents one principle in literature, Tasso quite another. The 
Orlando is the more sprightly poem it is full of energy and 
verve. The Gerusalemme, on the contrary, has a noble dig- 
nity, an air of refinement, a faultless beauty which are rare 
in literature. The Gerusalemme is the quintessence of art, 
while the Orlando almost throbs with the potency of genius. 
Considering the admirable qualities of these two great poems, 
it seems a little ungracious to prolong a controversy which 
had its origin in the spleen of Tasso's enemies. There is 
room in literature, and in the admiration of the wise, for 



IN the fourth chapter some account was given of the 
early history of the drama, and it was shown that its most 
vigorous form was that of the sacred representations. On 
the revival of learning these plays were treated as non- 
existent, and the princes and scholars in whose hands the 
fate of Italian literature now lay, resolved to introduce regular 
dramatic compositions. With that object they drew upon the 
works of Seneca, Plautus, and Terence. Foremost in the 
task of restoration was Ercole I of Ferrara, who invited clever 
men to his court and entrusted them with the duty of trans- 
lating Latin plays into the vernacular. From this the transi- 
tion to original dramas composed on the same principles was 
easy, and we find that, in point of fact, only a year after 
Plautus' Menaechmi had been given an Italian dress, several 
attempts were made to vie with the classics. We may 
take as instances the Cefalo of Wiccolo da Correggio, the 
Filostrato e Panfila and Demetrio Re di Tele of Antonio da 
Pistoia, and the Timone Misantropo of Boiardo. At Ferrara 
also Ariosto commenced author by writing comedies, to 
which we shall refer later in the chapter. 

The first to write a drama on the model of Sophocles was 
that bold, but not over successful experimenter, Gian Giorgio 

G 2 


Trissino. His Italia Liberate was, we have seen, a complete 
failure. It is due to Trissino to say that his tragedy Sofonisba 
came within an ace of success. It was designed with much 
judgment, there was a scrupulous regard for the unities, and 
the characters were happily conceived. The truth is the 
play was admirable in outline ; where it failed was in respect 
jo the details. Trissino had not a spark of true poetry, and 
Ihis verse is exceedingly heavy and laboured. He displayed 
a lack of ability also in his monologues, which were intended 
to explain to the auditory the facts on which the drama 
was based. 

Of Trissino' s disciples the most eminent was Giovanni 
Rucellai (1475-1526). He was not only a far better poet 
than his master, but showed a praiseworthy independence in 
the selection of a subject from mediaeval history. The tale 
of Rosmunda, as it was less known to the generality of 
people, afforded greater scope for invention than the ordinary 
classical subjects ; and considering the arbitrary laws which 
then governed dramatic composition, Rucellai must be 
allowed to have exercised great taste and discrimination in his 
presentment of it. The school of Trissino and Rucellai was 
succeeded by writers like Sperone Speroni, whose idea of 
tragedy was that of converting the stage into shambles. 
Speroni was a sort of literary dictator, who imposed on his 
contemporaries by sheer force of will, but who had no proper 
qualifications with which to support the part. Thus, when 
he ventured on writing a work of his own, he hedged it 
round with every possible precaution. The proper test of 
a drama ought to be its capacity for representation, but 
Speroni had far too much regard for his good name to 
submit his Canace to any such rude tribunal. Instead of 
this he recited it to an assembly of academicians, of whose 


applause he was certain. This carefulness, however, did not 
prevent a report being spread, the existence of the work 
became known, and in spite of all that Speroni could do to 
stop it, Canace got into print. Finding that nothing could 
hinder the circulation of the play, the author delivered six 
lectures to the Academy in its defence, and excogitated also 
an apology for the benefit of generations yet to come. 

Canace had full need of these measures. The story, taken 
from the Epistles of Ovid, is horribly revolting, and in 
Speroni' s hands gains rather than loses in hideousness. Its 
distinctive features are reproduced with some additional 
touches in Giraldi's Orbecche, of which the scene is in Persia, 
and which is composed of an agreeable variety of incest, 
murder, and suicide. Giraldi was the writer of a long 
Discorso intorno al comporre de* Romanzi, Commedie e Tragedie, 
from which we should have anticipated better things from him 
as a dramatist. Thus in theorizing on the subject he main- 
tained that a drama should inculcate some sublime lesson, 
but it is hard to see what moral we are to extract from his 
Orbecche, except that the human race is incurably depraved. 
Giraldi wrote, besides this, romances, novels, sonnets, 
tragedies, and an epic poem in honour of Ercole II, Duke of 
Ferrara. He nowhere, however, achieved any marked success. 
The most notable tragedies of the hangman order after 
Canace and Orbecche are the Arciprandra of Decio, the 
Semiramide of Manfredi, and Mondella's Issipile, which all 
appeared towards the middle of the sixteenth century. We 
ought perhaps to mention, though the work has little or 
no intrinsic merit, that Pietro Aretino, by some strange 
freak, composed a tragedy in which he depicted the valour 
of the Horatii and Curiatii, and introduced a chorus of 
the Virtues ! 


All these dramas, whatever their comparative merits, must 
yield to the Torrismondo of Torquato Tasso. This great 
poet was, as has been already observed, a man of fine 
scholarship and immense erudition. It is interesting there- 
fore to learn that he thought Oedipus Rex the most perfect 
specimen of Attic tragedy. Elated by the success of his 
Amintci) which play will be noticed in its proper place, he 
resolved to attempt a drama for which he would take as a 
model the aforesaid masterpiece. In order to adhere more 
closely to the type in question he determined to invent the 
fable, and availing himself of sundry hints which he found in 
the history of the Goths, proceeded to complicate a plot, of 
which the de'noument is similar to that of the Oedipus. 
Torrismondo must not be thought of as free from the faults of 
its predecessors, but it has merits which they are without. 
The wonderful intricacy, yet easy and natural develop- 
ment of the plot, the splendour of the style, and the lovely 
odes, which those of Sophocles himself only equal and do 
not excel, are sufficient to place it in a category by itself. 
There is indeed nothing wherewith to compare it until we 
come, nearly two hundred years later, to the Merope of 
Scipione Maffei. 

Meanwhile the sister-art of comedy had not been neglected. 
It had, on the contrary, been cultivated with greater zeal and 
success than tragedy. Of those who distinguished themselves 
in this study the first in point of time was Ariosto, who, to 
please the Dukes of Ferrara, wrote two dramas, Cassaria 
and / Suppositi. Twenty years after their first appearance 
they were republished in a more perfect form, but in their 
original shape there can be little doubt that they are the 
earliest specimens of Italian comedy. Ariosto's plays, of 
which he wrote seven, have been esteemed by many critics 


the best which this century produced, but this is hardly just. 
The highest place in the list must be reserved for the 
Mandragola of Machiavelli. The comedies of Ariosto have 
a strong family likeness, and in all of them the influence of 
Plautus and Terence is plainly discernible, though it is not 
so complete as to deprive them of all claims to originality. 
The great feature in them is the intrigue, which is treated as 
infinitely more important than the depicting of character. 
These different objects to which the drama may be dedi- 
cated subsequently led to the formation of two distinct 
schools, named respectively commedia di intreccio and corn- 
media di carattere. 

Something should be said also about the metre in which 
these plays were written hendecasyllabic sdrucciolo, accord- 
ing to which each line consisted of five feet and terminated in 
two unaccented syllables. Ariosto was a great master of 
rhythm, but even he could not overcome the inherent faulti- 
ness of this unwieldy metre, the difficulty of which had been 
previously felt by Sannazaro. The adoption of this metre 
was followed by significant results. Despite Ariosto' s repu- 
tation as the author of Orlando Furioso, his comedies were 
by no means highly esteemed, and attracted few imitators. 
One or two individuals, however, ventured on fresh metrical 
experiments. Pecchi, a Florentine, wrote quite a large 
number of plays in plain hendecasyllabic verse, but they 
were hopelessly dull ; and Luigi Alamanni invented a new 
metre of sixteen syllables, and a sdrucciolo. Neither was 
this popular. The majority of playwrights, after the poor 
success of Ariosto, abandoned metre in despair and wrote 
prose dramas. 

The first work of the sort in Italian literature was, it is 
considered, the Calandra of Cardinal da Bibbiena, in which 


were combined elegance of style and genuine humour. Since, 
however, it does not differ materially from the plays already 
described, there is no need to particularise it further. Indeed, 
for the first thirty years of the sixteenth century, such pro- 
ductions were marked by a wearisome sameness, with one 
exception, the Mandragola of Machiavelli. We should gather 
from the prologue that the play was founded on actual occur- 
rences within the knowledge of the spectators a circum- 
stance which must have added greatly to the interest of 
the performance. The work, however, can do without this 
help. The personages are drawn with striking vividness and 
truth, the plot is cleverly devised, and the style natural. The 
object of the play is to expose two kinds of pests infesting 
Florentine society the parasite and the religious impostor. 
The chief point for which Machiavelli has been censured is 
his want of delicacy, but this is a fault which is common to 
him with the age. Even Tasso, whose morals were above 
reproach, will not bear to be tried by our standards of 
modesty. Lasca's comedies are only remarkable for their 
style, in which respect they are perfect. 

This seems the most suitable place in which to refer to 
Pietro Aretino, who has been previously mentioned, once in 
connexion with his dialogues, and, secondly, in this present 
chapter, as having composed a tragedy. Himself illegitimate, 
he figured throughout his career as the apostle of obscenity 
and impudence, and his scurrilous, mordant speech caused 
him to be so much dreaded that the most powerful sovereigns 
of the age Charles V, Francis I, and Clement VII deemed 
it their interest to cultivate him. He was created a knight, 
and pensions were bestowed on him, in order to engage his 
silence. Pietro attempted all sorts of composition, writing 
even on sacred subjects, but he was most in his element 


perhaps in comedy. Here he had full scope for his powers 
of abuse. Though some critics have detected and praised a 
certain liveliness in the action before unknown, it is clear 
that this author concentrated the best part of his attention on 
the dialogue, in which it would be idle to contest his success. 
It is distinguished by a careless ease, and smart, though 
shameless, epigram. The Donna Costante and Amante 
Furioso of Borghini, although they cannot be rated as very 
excellent compositions, deserve mention on account of their 
singularity. In an age when such a thing was undreamt of, 
they afford some foretaste of the romantic drama. 

All the writers of comedy who have been cited thus far 
wrote in classical Italian, but comedy, which by its very 
nature is more popular than tragedy, assumed a municipal 
form, and specimens were produced in various local dialects. 
We may leave out of sight the Florentine, which was employed 
for every sort of writing, but especially for comedy, because, 
as has been often observed, the difference between this and 
literary Italian is scarcely to be perceived. In the rest of 
Italy the citizens of Siena were perhaps the first to write 
comedies in their native speech, and the works of the 
Accademia de' Rozzi held the same place in the estimation of 
their contemporaries as the Atellane plays at Rome. The 
Rozzi were succeeded by the Intronati, who made a speciality 
of comedy, and whose dramas, collected in several volumes, 
found their way over the Alps. It is said that Shakespeare's 
Twelfth Night is imitated from one of their plays, / Ingan- 
nati. In 1536, when Charles V passed through Siena, the 
Intronati regaled him with a theatrical exhibition, and a 
comedy was performed, which had been written by Arch- 
bishop Piccolomini, and bore as title Amore 
Costante. The principal feature in this comedy is that 


four different sorts of speech are in use, a captain speaking 
in Castilian, a Neapolitan in his own dialect, a German in 
broken Italian, while the common persons talk Sanese. 
The effect of this intermixture was naturally to increase 
the humour of the piece, but it is not an artifice which 
can be often resorted to, and Caro in his Straccioni returned 
to the older and better precedent by writing in ordinary 
Italian. If dialect is to be used at all, it is desirable in the 
interests of art that it should be the same throughout. This 
was the rule adopted in most of his comedies by Ruzzante, 
who wrote in the Paduan dialect. Lastly, as to the so-called 
commedie dell' arte, of which a good deal was improvisation. 
They were executed by professional actors for the diversion 
of the common people, whos.e stock of sacred representations 
was beginning to fail, and at first were wholly impromptu. 
The extravagance in which the performers indulged led to 
plays being, so to speak, skeletonized. The dialogue, how- 
ever, was still left to the inspiration of the moment. To 
these farces we may trace the origin of Harlequin, Pantaloon, 
and other familiar friends of the pantomime. 

The pastoral drama, to which we must next allude, is in a 
peculiar way the glory of Italy. Until a few years before 
Aminta was written, it is doubtful whether there had ever 
existed anything of the sort. There had been abundance of 
pastoral poetry, which, so far as Italy was concerned, was 
revived in his Arcadia by Sannazzaro, but a pastoral 
play was something new in literature, unless indeed a lost 
work of Sositheus, which Athenaeus mentions by the name of 
Daphnis or Lityerses, be deemed to have answered to this 
description. Whatever may be the truth about this, it is 
hardly likely that Tasso's precursors owed anything to this 
somewhat obscure hint. After all there is nothing so very 


extraordinary in the choice of a pastoral subject for a drama, 
especially at a time when all kinds of experiments were being 
made in literature ; nor is it on the score of invention so 
much as of unique excellence that Aminta awakens our 
admiration. Previous to its appearance several like dramas 
had been produced at the court of Ferrara. Thus we hear 
of a Tirsi by Castiglione, an Egle by Giraldi, a Sacrifizio 
by Agostino Beccari, and an Aretusa by Alberto Lollio. 
What, however, directly suggested to Tasso the idea of writing 
\usAminta, was the representation at which he was present in 
1567 of the Sfortunato of Agostino degli Argenti, who com- 
posed it for the entertainment of Duke Alfonso II and his 
brother the Cardinal. 

Tasso's Aminta is of course quite different from his Geru- 
salemme, to which it has been by some critics preferred. The 
former has all the simplicity and grace of the idylls of Theo- 
critus and the eclogues of Virgil, and indeed there are not a 
few passages imitated from those authors. Tasso, however, 
like Milton, never borrowed without making full reparation 
by evolving in the process new and unsuspected beauties. 
His shepherds and shepherdesses are imagined to live in the 
Golden Age, before men were corrupted and set at variance 
by the monstrous notion of honour. These beings are equally 
removed from that rusticity which we might have supposed 
inseparable from their calling, and the false polish of the 
courtier. They live in plenty, and the only thing which dis- 
turbs the even tenor of their way is love. The theme of the 
pastoral play therefore is love the thrice-told tale of a 
distressed lover and an obdurate maiden. The drama was 
considered a complete success, and soon began to be copied. 
Only one of these imitations, however, has survived // 
Pas/or Fido of Guarini. 


Giambattista Guarini (1537-1613) was a frequenter of 
the same court of Ferrara where Tasso resided, and they are 
said to have been rivals in love. Finding that Tasso's 
poetical effusions gave him the advantage with ladies, 
Guarini resolved to compete with him on his own ground. 
That he should have achieved such success is certainly sur- 
prising, as Guarini was a person of very aristocratic senti- 
ments, and shrank from the description of poet as though it 
derogated from his character as a gentleman. // Pastor 
Fido bears some resemblance to Aminta, but in the main 
action they are entirely distinct, and of the two the former 
has by far the more complicated and ambitious design. 
Italy was now dominated by Spain, and the influence of 
the conquerors made itself felt even in literature, which 
was marked by numerous vices. Thus in // Pastor Fido 
the comic element is introduced in such a way as some- 
what to impair the value of the piece as a work of art. 
Out of regard for this feature in the play Guarini styled it a 
tragic ommedia. In the prevailing state of public feeling, 
however, its very inconsistencies were pleasing. The better 
sense of Italy, whilst acknowledging the merits of // 
Pastor Fido its rich poetry, warm feeling, and life-like 
pourtrayal of character and conceding to it the second 
place, has always ranked it at a considerable interval after 

It may not perhaps strictly belong to our province to dis- 
cuss the nielodrama, the libretto of which is often a mere 
accessory, but Daphne, a pastoral written by Ottavio 
Kinuccini, has an interest independent of the music, and 
deserves a passing notice. There were many other plays 
produced at this time, some of which have fallen into un- 
merited oblivion, but it is necessary that we should pass on 


to the subject of lyric poetry, to which similar remarks will 
be applicable. 

The sixteenth century was an age in which every gentle- 
man was expected, as a matter of course, to be able to indite 
a sonnet. Nay, poetry descended into the street; artisans 
felt the breath of Apollo, and forsaking the popular rhymes, 
became followers of Petrarch. The entire peninsula swarmed 
with Petrarchists and Boccaccists, especially the former, whose 
mannerisms and cold conceits were in vain attacked by Muzio 
in his Arte Poetica, and by Klccold Franco in // Petrarchista. 
While there are no really great names in this army of love-sick 
singers, there are several which are of secondary importance, 
and which would not be rightly passed over. Thus Cardinal 
Bembo (1470-1547) has gained some distinction by his 
imitations of Petrarch, although he is very far from attaining 
the perfection of his model. The reason lay primarily, no 
doubt, in the disparity of their powers, but the motives 
which impelled Petrarch to write were real, whereas in the 
case of Bembo, a cloyed sensualist, they were imaginary 
only. The Cardinal composed also grammatical works, and, 
although not even a Tuscan, was regarded by the Florentines 
as an authority from whom there was no appeal. 

Another poet who deserves to be singled out from the 
multitude of rhymesters is Galeazzo di Tarsia (1492-1555), 
who was not much esteemed during his lifetime, and only 
leapt into fame after his death on the publication of his 
sonnets. He was one of the many admirers of Vittoria 
Colonna, in whose honour most of his lyrics were written. 
They are of a different quality from those of Bembo, but 
Galeazzo had not the necessary strength of mind to break 
with the fashions of the age. It being considered a positive 
merit to rifle Petrarch's Canzoniere of its gems, Galeazzo 


sacrificed at the altar of convention, and is now well-nigh 
forgotten. The same cannot be said of his divinity, Vittoria 
Colonna (1490-1547), although for the purpose of immor- 
talising her name her sex was probably no disservice to her. 
Most of her verse is dedicated to her husband, the Marchese 
di Pescara. It is distinguished both by warmth and elegance, 
but even it is tainted in some measure by stereotyped affected 
phraseology. After the death of her husband she withdrew 
from society and composed religious poems. One canzonet 
which has been usually attributed to Vittoria, though some 
have given it to Ariosto, rises high above the level of the 
sixteenth century, and is in its way unique. 

Vittoria is remembered also as the only woman, so far as 
is known, who succeeded in captivating Michelangelo. That 
great man was generally too much occupied with the ideal 
world to take an interest in sublunary objects, but his habit 
of abstraction broke down before the charms of the poetess. 
Before he knew her, he said, drawing a metaphor from art, 
he was a half-finished statue to which the chisel of Vittoria 
gave form. One result of their intimacy was that Michel- 
angelo (1475-1564) turned poet, and although he could not 
avoid being a Petrarchist, his verse has a stately nobility, an 
intellectual grace, denied to the professional rhymesters. Berni. 
who felt a great contempt for the class, passed the remark on 
them that they said ivords, Michelangelo things. 

It must not be supposed that Vittoria Colonna was the 
only poetess of the age. On the contrary there was quite a 
host of ladies ambitious of the name, of whom we may quote 
as examples Veronica Gambara, Tullia d' Aragona, Gaspara 
Stampa, Laura Terracina, and Tarquinia Molza. In point 
of merit there is perhaps not much to choose between them, 
but if any claims special notice it is Gaspara Stampa (1523- 


1554). She was very romantic, and her poems are naturally 
divided by the three periods to which they relate. The first 
belong to the time when she fell in love with a young noble- 
man, Collatino di Collalto. He appears to have possessed 
every qualification which could be demanded of a lover, being 
well-born, rich and virtuous ; and Gaspara is rapturous over 
him. Then came dark days of suspicion and suspense, 
which form the second period, and finally, when her hero was 
wedded to another, the third period of despairing certainty. 
Her verse is real poetry, and if she had not been so unlucky 
as to be born in that age of formal lyricism, it is possible that 
she might have won the name of a second Sappho. 

The sonnets of Giovanni del Casa are striking for their 
masculine vigour, and were greatly admired by Ugo Foscolo. 
Tasso also wrote lyrical verses, of which those that relate 
to his unhappy love affair are the most pathetic. In one 
sense he may be claimed. as a disciple of Guido Guinicelli, 
since he treats of Platonic love, but he is as superior to the 
Bolognese in depth of learning as in mastery of poetic form. 

Already mention has been made of Berni and the poetry 
called after him bernesque. The name which he gave to his 
poems was Capitoli, and they were written in triplets. As 
may be readily imagined he had a crowd of imitators, most 
of whom were only feeble echoes of their master. Now the 
most salient feature in bernesque poetry is the ambiguity of 
the terms, double entendre. For the success of this artifice 
there ought to be an exact correspondence between the 
literal and the figurative meaning, but this we often do not 
find in the works of the minor exponents of the art, e.g. 
Giovanni Mauro. After Berni himself, the chief writers of 
frivolous verse were Lasca and Caporali. The former was 
here quite in his element, and his madrigalesse (a species of 


composition of his own invention, in which he parodied the 
madrigal-writers) are among the quaintest things in literature. 
Caporali, for his part, attempted an innovation by choosing 
such subjects as lent themselves to satire. His longest work 
is a Vita di Mecenate, in which the jest turns on a modernisa- 
tion, as it were, of the worthy patron of Horace. Another 
poem of Caporali, entitled Viaggio al Parnaso, is said to have 
supplied Cervantes with the hint for his better known work of 
the same name. As a general criticism of bernesque poetry 
it may be observed that it is often very exquisite as regards 
its form, but its aim is entirely nugatory, wherefore its pro- 
fessors cannot be placed high in the hierarchy of poets. 

About this time satire of a more serious kind, imitated 
from Horace and Juvenal, began to be cultivated. The first 
specimens of the kind were those of Vinciguerra (1480). 
They are stated to have been so popular that at Venice 
there was not a person who did not know them by heart. 
This is difficult to credit, as for us Vinciguerra's satires 
possess few literary attractions, and are, in fact, little 
more than rambling discourses of miscellaneous scolding. 
Ariosto also attempted this style. The satires of that 
great poet are quite worthy of his fame. Written in a 
graceful and easy vein, they are lit up every now and then 
by unlooked-for sallies, full of wit, and are as pungent as 
satire need ever be. Next to Ariosto, among the satirists 
of the age, is Ercole Bentivoglio (1506-1572), but his 
affectation is intolerable. He served during the siege of 
Florence as a mercenary of Clement VII, and in anything 
but the spirit of a soldier repines at the vinegar and mouldy 
brown bread which are his daily fare. Son of one of the 
many petty despots who were the plague and disgrace of 
Italy, he was naturally obtuse to the character of the scene 


which was enacting before his eyes the destruction of the 
last bulwark of liberty in fair Florence. Other satirists were 
Luigi Alamanni, Pietro K"elli, Girolamo Fenaruolo, and 

Lastly as to didactic poetry, of which the age affords some 
examples. Rucellai wrote an admirable poem about bees, 
suggested doubtless by a famous passage in the Georgics. 
He was followed by Luigi Alamanni with his Coltivazione, 
an exhaustive treatise on agriculture, and a non-Florentine 
writer Bernardino Baldi, whose encyclopaedic mind fur- 
nished forth the subject-matter of a poem entitled Nautica. 
All these works are in blank verse, and on the whole 
extremely tiresome. Better in every way are two poems 
of Tansillo, his Podere and Balia, which are written in terza 
rima, and have, if no other, these merits they are not long 
and they are readable. 



THE seventeenth century as an era is famous for the pro- 
gress of natural science, to which Italy contributed her full 
share. Galileo, Renieri, Cassini, Torricelli, Valisnieri, Viviani, 
Bellini, Redi, and a host of others, are still remembered as 
participating in this great movement, but to the historian of 
Italian letters the interest which these names excite is inci- 
dental only. In pure literature the age was one of decadence 
and decline ; and the reason is obvious. The peninsula 
groaned under the oppressions of a number of paltry tyrants, 
who could not afford to tolerate any works with a bearing on 
morals or politics. On the other hand it could do them no 
harm, rather much good, to encourage acute and industrious 
minds to search into the mysteries of nature. They would 
not only be earning an honourable name for themselves as 
patrons of learning, but would be keeping pragmatical persons 
out of mischief. Whatever their motives may have been, the 
sons and successors of Cosimo de' Medici were devoted to 
this study, and attended in person the discussions of the 
Accademia del Cimento, which was an institution especially 
dedicated to physical science. 

Literature was vitiated by two principal faults far-fetched 
analogy and an excessive love of antithesis. As instances of 
the former may be quoted such circumlocutions as ardenti 


zecchini della banca del cielo (' glowing zecchins of the bank 
of the sky '), buchi lucenti del celeste cribro ( ( shining holes of 
the heavenly sieve '), and lummose agnelle ( f bright lambkins ') 
for the stars. It would be easy to multiply such expressions 
which in England we should term euphuisms, and which, 
with judicious editing, might furnish materials for an agree- 
able jest-book. These faults do not cling quite exclusively 
to the seventeenth century. For similar abuses Tasso had 
already rebuked a grandson of Ariosto, but then offences of 
the sort were rare. The extravagance reached its culminat- 
ing point in the writings of Giambattista Marini (1569- 
1625) and his followers. Marini was extremely popular, and 
to judge from his earliest attempts, deliberately forsook truer 
perceptions of art for a set of corrupt maxims as more in 
harmony with the tendencies of the age. His chief work is 
an epic, A done, for which he was munificently rewarded by 
the King of France with a pension of a thousand fans and the 
title of cavaliere. There is not much in Adone that we can 
properly call new, and his choice of this subject seems to 
have been dictated by a two-fold consideration the oppor- 
tunity it afforded him for licence and his rare talent for 
description. One feature in the poem which is especially 
disfiguring to it is the troop of allegorical and abstract per- 
sonages who help to fill up the canvas. We have noted 
some specimens of impossible metaphors ; Marini shall 
supply us with an example of strained antithesis. He speaks 
of Love : 

RLince privo di lume, Argo bendato, 
Vecchio lattante e pargoletto antico, 
Ignorante erudito, ignudo armato, etc. 
^ ' Lynx reft of light, a blindfold Argus, stickling old man and aged 
little boy, ignorant yet learned, naked yet armed/) 

H 2 


This is monstrous enough, but Marini was completely 
eclipsed by his two followers Girolamo Preti (fi626) and 
Claudio Achillini (1574-1640), who ran riot in such con- 
ceits, so that the metaphors of the seventeenth century have 
passed into a proverb. But the writers of that age were not 
all of them Marinists. There were two other classes, both 
of which were agreed in reprobating the prevailing vices, 
but of which the one sought to cure, while the other was 
content to mock at them. The chief representative of the 
former is Gabriello Chiabrera (1552-1637). He was a man 
of great learning, and particularly in love with Greek poetry, 
the graces whereof he endeavoured to transplant into Italian. 
He likens the enterprise to that of Columbus in search of 
a new world, but such phrases are much too grandiloquent 
for the attempt. All that Chiabrera really did was to dethrone 
Petrarch, who had been the idol of the poetasters of the 
sixteenth century, and to set up Pindar and Anacreon instead. 
The book of Nature, with its endless suggestions, remained 
to him sealed. Not only did Chiabrera lay violent hands on 
the words and phrases of his masters, but he also appropriated 
their themes, substituting however for the contests of Olympia 
the games of football at Florence. In formulating these 
odes Chiabrera ventured on an innovation by the use of 
compound terms, e. g. nubicalpestatore. Such combinations 
are agreeable to the genius of the northern languages of 
Europe, as they were to the ancient Greek, from which of 
course Chiabrera copied them, but Latin and its derivatives 
somehow do not take kindly to them. Chiabrera is more 
happy when he celebrates the triumphs of Italian galleys 
over the Turks and corsairs who swarmed in the Mediter- 
ranean. The subject was naturally one to kindle his patriotic 
ardour, and in handling it he displays considerable skill am 




some amount of real passion. Even here, however, he does 
not let go the leading-strings of Pindar. 

Chiabrera was greatly admired in his own day, and was 
regarded as a touch-stone of good sense. It was said by 
Cardinal Pallavicini that, ' in order to find out whether a man 
had good talents, it was needful to see if Chiabrera pleased 
him/ Under these circumstances he was certain to have 
many disciples, some of whom did him small credit. Among 
the more famous may be mentioned Guidi, Testi, Ciampoli, 
Menzini and Filicaja. 

In the case both of Ciampoli and Guidi their character 
seems to have taken a ply from their writings. Ciampoli 
was so vain that he did not return people's salutes, while 
Guidi, with lofty selfA|ertion, challenged a comparison with 
Pindar. ' Non e ca^Mglt Dei Pindaro solo ' are his words. 
Of the two Guidi (1610-1712) is certainly the more signi- 
ficant. Misinterpreting a phrase of Horace in which he 
spoke of the verses of the Theban poet as freed from all law, 
Guidi spoilt the framework of the Italian canzonet and wrote 
with studied carelessness. In this he had, fortunately, no 
imitators. As a writer Guidi belongs partly to the school of 
Marini, partly to the Arcadians. He collaborated with 
Queen Christina of Sweden, who suggested to him the 
drama Endimione and wrote some verses for it. Towards 
the end of his life he purposed translating the Psalms, but 
finding, as he said, the genius of Hebrew opposed to that of 
Italian poetry, he abandoned the experiment. He did, how- 
ever, work out a metrical version of six Latin homilies by 
Clement XL 

Testi's (1593-1646) style is more refined and chaste than 
that of Guidi, and much of his poetry is undeniably beautiful 
notably the allegorical Ruscelletto Orgoglioso, the source of 


all his woe. His verse, however, lacks energy. The best in 
regard to purity and propriety of language is Menzini (1646- 
1704), who, conscious of his limitations, wrote by preference 
on rural subjects. Some of his sonnets retain their popu- 
larity to this day.- It still remains to allude to one of Chia- 
brera's scholars Filicaja (163 2-1 707), who, in his moments 
of inspiration, far surpassed his contemporaries. None of 
these writers, it seems, could escape the besetting sin, the 
odd metaphors and reckless exaggeration, of the time, but 
in his poems relating to the siege of Vienna by the Turks 
Filicaja may be said to have risen to the height of the 
argument. The occasion was one which seemed laden with 
consequences to the Christian faith, and Filicaja, a Florentine 
gentleman, was unfeignedly and profojLndly religious. The 
principal blemish in his verse is iffi? rhetorical turn, but 
in reading him everyone must feel that Filicaja is a real 

It is evident that the artifices of the Marinists were such 
as lent themselves very readily to satire, and, as has been 
already intimated, a school of satirists arose. They must be 
judged the best of them, at least to have obtained a con- 
siderable measure of success, for the writings of Menzini, 
Salvatore Rosa, and Adimari, even now, have not ceased 
to be read. The works of Monsignore Sergardi, who wrote 
under the name of Settano, made a great stir, but there was 
too much of personal invective in them, the chief object of 
attack being Gravina, Sergardi, therefore, can hardly be 
accepted as a candidate for the primacy which, according to 
the taste of the critic, ought to be assigned either to Bene- 
detto Menzini or Salvatore Rosa (1615-1 676). The former 
has the surer touch, writes better verses, and shows himself 
in all the details of style more of an adept in the art. Rosa, 


on the other hand, has a fund of rude vigour, but seems, 
notwithstanding his skill in painting, to have had little feeling 
for the niceties of language. He is an amateur in satire. 
This writer was extremely ostentatious of his learning, and 
his satires may be regarded, from one point of view, as a 
medley of Greek and Latin proper names. Still more re- 
grettable is his cruel and shameless attack on the great 

Finally must be mentioned Francesco Redi (1629-1697), 
who gained distinction both in the field of science and of 
letters. His lyrical poems are now forgotten or remembered 
only by philologers for their pure diction. Redi's dithyramb, 
however Baccho in Toscana has experienced a better fate. 
It is looked upon not only as a perfect example of its sort, 
but, literally, as unrivalled. The history of the dithyramb 
previously may be briefly stated as follows. Italy had pos- 
sessed specimens of the kind ever since the days of Poliziano. 
When, later on, Chiabrera made it his mission to introduce 
the various forms of Greek poetry, he naturally paid attention 
to the dithyramb. He would appear, however, to have been 
unprovided with models, and thus to have hazarded a guess 
at the nature of such compositions. His conjecture was false, 
but Redi followed in his footsteps and celebrated the wines 
of Tuscany in his Baccho^ through the spokesmanship of the 
god himself. The poem, according to the author's intention, 
mimics the phases of a drunken fit, and becomes more wild 
as it proceeds. To produce this effect a variety of metres 
are employed, and the most plausible terms; but it is im- 
possible to disguise the fact that Baccho in Toscana is the 
lucubration of a scholar, not a work inspired by a fami- 
liarity like that of the vine-dresser or vintner, or even of the 
professional diner-out. 


The drama was even in a worse way than lyric poetry. 
True comedy had succumbed to the Commedia del? arte> and 
the only works of a dramatic nature which are still re- 
membered are La Tancia and La Fiera of Michelangelo 
Buonarroti the younger. These writings are of a character 
entirely distinct. La Fiera was composed without any re- 
ference to the theatre, and consists of five Giornate. Each of 
these Giornate again is divided into five long acts. There 
are likewise five prologues or interludes, in which allegorical 
personages such as Art, Merchandise, Commerce, Enjoy- 
ment and Profit appear ; while in the main body of the work 
are introduced people of every age, sex, and condition, an 
aggregate of humanity for which there is only one description 
menagerie. La Tancia on the other hand is copied from 
the rustic plays of the fourteenth century, and is interesting. 
Buonarroti, though he had no real dramatic talent, paints in 
lively colours the habits of Florentine country-folk, whom he^ 
makes speak in their native brogue. 

As a supposed prototype of Paradise Lost it is permissible 
to allude to the Adamo of Andreini a whimsical composition, 
but not quite devoid of merit. 

The greatest name in Italian literature during the seven- 
teenth century is unquestionably that of Tassoni (1565-1635). 
His masterpiece, La Secchia Rapita, is a poem of European 
reputation. In order to grasp its significance, it must be 
borne in mind that the age was fruitful in epic poems, 
although none is of sufficient dignity or importance to merit 
distinct mention in these pages. Gerusalemme Liberata, like 
Ariosto's Orlando, provoked feelings of emulation in the 
breasts of unnumbered minor poets, who vainly strove to 
achieve a similar renown. Not that they were all alike or 
all bad. Some of them possessed great talent, and even 


genius, but it is a common observation that epic poems can- 
not be produced at will. They are the work not only of 
men, but of times and conditions. Ariosto and Tasso had 
a clientele in the people, who were superstitious by inheritance, 
and in whose store of marvels they had found unlimited 
materials. Critics like Cardinal d'Este might disdain their 
compositions, but such cavils were drowned in the enthu- 
siastic applause of the multitude. The succeeding age 
was almost wholly critical and analytical, and even a little 
cynical. It is evidence of the altered tone that the Aeneid 
of Virgil, who during the middle ages had been reverenced 
as a saint and feared as a magician, was travestied with 
impunity by Lalli. 

As for Tassoni, he was a man with an instinctive love of 
freedom, a noble contempt for everything servile and cringing 
no less in literature than in politics. Unluckily neither his 
own circumstances nor those of the time favoured his 
aspirations. He came of an ancient family, but was forced 
by poverty to dance attendance on Cardinal Ascanio Colonna, 
while Italy, which he would gladly have seen strong and 
united, gasped at the feet of Spain. When the Duke of 
Savoy, with fine courage, attacked the colossal monarchy, 
Tassoni wrpte some spirited Filippiche, exposing the weak- 
ness of their common foe to the princes of Italy and urging 
them to support Carlo Emanuele. The duke was at first 
duly grateful, but by-and-by there came a suspension of 
arms, and in the end Tassoni was sacrificed to political 
necessities, none of the ample promises which had been 
made to him being redeemed. 

In literature Tassoni manifested his independence by 
objecting to the tyranny of the Dellacruscan Vocabulary, 
whereby the use of any terms not consecrated by the usage 


of a few writers was forbidden. This is strikingly evident in 
his book, Pensieriy which, for the rest, his admirers have 
strong reason to regret. If there is some gold in it, there is 
much alloy. Often, strangely juxtaposed with a profound 
truth, is to be found some absurd paradox, and, generally, it 
is a standing proof of the inequality of genius, the more im- 
pressive because Tassoni frequently showed himself an acute 
critic. A poetical commonplace at this time was the discovery 
of the New World. This subject had been already, treated 
by Stigliani, Villafranchi, and others, and when a friend 
submitted to him several cantos of an epic on the well-worn 
theme, Tassoni in words of the sagest counsel dissuaded him 
from the attempt. He himself at one period projected a 
poem Oceana on the same topic, and advanced a theory that 
a composition of this nature, if it was to succeed, should be 
modelled on the Odyssey, not, as was ordinarily the case, on 
the Aeneid or Gerusalemme Liber ata. Tassoni completed one 
canto, but here his heart failed him or, as is more likely, he 
became sensible that his gifts would be better employed in 
another direction. By a curious coincidence, at the very 
time when Cervantes was writing Don Quixote, Tassoni set 
to work on a satirico-epic poem, to which he gave the name 
La Secchia Rapita, and which, it may be remarked, was 
printed several years before Marini's Adone. 

Consistently with his design Tassoni rigidly adhered to 
the forms of the heroic epic, producing by this means a 
more laughable result. From a historical point of view La 
Secchia Rapita connects with an earlier period of Italian 
annals, when two states, on the least provocation, rushed into 
exacerbated war. It would have been more to the purpose 
perhaps, if, instead of lashing the redundant energy of the 
old republicans, Tassoni had attacked the opposite vice as 


exemplified in his contemporaries. * But this does not by any 
means exhaust his quiver. One of the worst features in the 
literature of the day was the rank abuse of pagan mythology, 
which had, so to speak, been galvanized into life. It sym- 
bolized nothing, and its revival was due to the prostitution 
of poetry in the petty Italian courts. By assailing this foolish 
conventionality Tassoni antedated, in some sense, the efforts 
put forth two centuries later by the romanticists for a more 
natural style of writing. 

From the moment of its publication La Secchia Rapita 
was greatly admired, and it was translated into several foreign 
languages, but it did not effect the desired reform. The 
truth is it was not taken seriously. It was regarded as a light 
amusing composition, not as a satire. The same task was 
attempted, with rather more austerity, by Bracciolini in his 
Scherno del Dei. His work is well written, but might not 
perhaps have been remembered, had not a contest arisen 
between the two authors respecting the priority of their 
works. La Secchia Rapita is deformed by none of the 
vices of the period. The style is bold and the versifica- 
tion easy. It might have been improved by the insertion 
of a few more episodes. As it is, the description of so many 
battles is apt at last to grow tedious. In spite of that the 
poem is not of the sort which, once read, can be indifferently 
laid aside. The flavour it leaves behind constantly invites to 
a fresh perusal. Of the many imitations of Tassoni the only 
epic worthy of mention is the Malmantile of Lorenzo Lippi 
(16061664), written in the gayest of moods. 

The prose of the seventeenth century is much on a par 
with its poetry. The orators, especially the preachers, in- 
dulged in the wildest excesses of rhetoric. If any is to 
be excepted it must be Segneri, who has many admirable 


qualities, but nothing to compare with the consummate art 
of Demosthenes or the fervid eloquence of Chatham. The 
academic readings are inferior even to those of the sixteenth 
century, which, though not brilliant, had at least the merit of 
a pure style. Historical literature on the other hand is illus- 
trated by some famous names, the most notable being those 
of Arrigo Caterino Davila, Guido Bentivoglio, Fra Paolo 
Sarpi, and Cardinal Pallavicini. Davila (1576-1631) de- 
scribed the civil wars of France, whilst Bentivoglio (1579 
1603) dealt with those of Flanders. Both works are distin- 
guished by dignity of manner and great knowledge of affairs. 
They excited, however, less interest than the other pair of 
histories devoted to the Council of Trent. That by Sarpi 
(1552-1623) is the better known as it is certainly the more 
deserving. The writer shows marked ability in arranging his 
facts, but even more striking is Sarpi's independence of thought, 
which he expressed at the risk of torture and assassination. 

Sarpi was a Venetian, and it is probable that his dislike of 
Rome was intensified and inflamed by the interposition of 
Paul V in the affairs of his native city, which in 1606 was 
laid under an interdict. The History of the Council of Trent, 
however, was not the product of malevolence, but a dream of 
Sarpi's youth, and its consummation, late in his career, gave 
its author a place in the first rank of the world's historians. 
It was published in 1619 at London, and announced as the 
work of Pietro Soave Polano, a sort of anagram formed on 
the writer's actual name Paolo Sarpi. 

The weak point in the book is the style, which lacks 
finish. In this the author must certainly yield the palm to 
Pallavicini (1607-1667). On the other hand the Cardinal 
is by no means Sarpi's equal in his mode of discussing the 
subject. Sarpi is an impartial historian, but Pallavicini writes 


as an apologist an attitude which diminishes our confidence 
in his statements. In this department two other names may 
be mentioned, Daniello Bartoli and Giambattista Doni, but 
their works are not specially significant. 

The literary vices of the seventeenth century were so 
pronounced that they could not remain hid even from those 
who were most affected by them. They openly challenged 
reform. The consequence was that a reaction set in, and 
writers lapsed into the very opposite errors. Instead of 
being a mania, a perpetual convulsion, literature became 
languid and tame. This result was mainly brought about 
by a single academy. During the last ten years of the 
century it was the custom of various scholars living at Rome 
to repair to one of the pleasant hills in the neighbourhood 
and there to read sonnets, canzonets, elegies, epigrams, etc., 
their own compositions, for their own or their mutual de- 
lectation. One day, in the exultation of his heart, a member 
of the brotherhood exclaimed Ecco per not risorta Arcadia 
(' See for us Arcadia risen again ') words which led to the 
formation of an academy bearing the name ' Arcadia.' The 
mission which it undertook was the propagation of poetical 
orthodoxy, and including its branches, it soon numbered one 
thousand three hundred adherents. Enrolled in the list were 
all sorts and conditions of literary men Guidi and Ciampoli, 
Pindarists, as well as Crescimbeni and Leonio, who were 
disciples of Theocritus. 

Probably it was this circumstance which caused the Ar- 
cadians to adopt a kind of via media in the reforms prescribed 
by them. They chose as a model the verse of Angiolo di 
Costanzo, already mentioned as among the writers of the 
sixteenth century. Filicaja, in one of his sonnets, predicts 
something like an eternal duration for the Arcadia, but the 


institution lacked an essential element of success. The 
members, generally speaking, were by no means men of 
genius, and to-day it is difficult to recall as many as three 
or four names representing merely respectable talent. One 
of the most eminent of the set is Francesco Lemene (1634- 
1704), who graduated in the school of Marini and Achillini, 
but he burned to achieve something original, and when the 
new academy proclaimed war on bad taste, became a prolific 
writer of Arcadian verse. Lemene, however, filled with scorn 
at the mean and pitiful style of his fellow-shepherds, desired 
for himself the reputation of a man of spirit. This attempt 
to combine antagonistic qualities renders his poetry most 
affected. Hardly any writings have so false a ring. He 
considered himself a master of frivolous verse, and wrote in 
his old age a volume of sacred compositions, in which he 
attempted to be sublime, but fell far short of his intention. 

A writer of much greater merit is Giambattista Zappi 
(1667-1719). Zappi was a precocious genius. Before he 
was thirteen years old he had taken his degree both in philo- 
sophy and jurisprudence. He chose the law as his profes- 
sion, and at Rome, where he resided, held several public 
offices. Of all the ' shepherds ' Zappi is the least open to 
censure. His poems are very harmonious, and, being of a 
really poetic nature, he might in better times have made for 
himself a great name. He wrote in both styles, the simple 
and sublime, and specimens of his verse still find a place 
in every Italian anthology. 

We reach the next stage in the development of Arcadian 
poetry in a kind of writing named by its authors < fantastic/ 
The term must not be understood in the modern sense, but, 
suitably to its derivation, as synonymous with ' figurative ' or 
' ornate/ The leader in this new departure was Carlo In- 


nocenzo Frugoni (1692-1768), who was blest with a copious 
imagination, but lacked seriousness. He wrote an immense 
number of poems of every sort, in every conceivable style 
and metre, and for our purpose may be deemed the last of 
the Arcadians. 

Between the death of Zappi and that of Frugoni a period 
elapsed of nearly forty years, during which thousands of 
versifiers won a temporary fame. Very few names, however, 
have descended to our times none glorious. Before litera- 
ture could arise from the mire in which it was sunk, the action 
of a keen unsparing criticism was necessary. Already this 
had been begun by Tassoni, who at eighteen wrote a tragedy 
to which he appended a critique instancing with remarkable 
frankness both its merits and defects. Tassoni was the 
author also of a treatise on Petrarch's verse, which is signal- 
ized by his characteristic freedom. The Considerations, as 
he called them, are couched in a sufficiently lively style, and 
often display much judgment. Elsewhere, however, he is the 
victim of his own caprice, which leads him into unfairness 
and exaggeration. Allowing for this, Tassoni's ideas are vastly 
superior to those of his age. Among his successors four 
attained to great eminence, Gianvincenzo Gravina, Apostolo 
Zeno, Ludovico Antonio Muratori, and Scipione Maffei. 

Gravina (1664-1718), a man of immense erudition, who 
treated learnedly of Roman Law, sought to win for himself 
a place also in pure literature. He composed several dramas 
in the manner of the ancients, and such was his unconscion- 
able opinion of himself that he pretended to an equality with 
Sophocles. As an original writer he must be pronounced 
an unqualified failure, but his ill-success is redeemed in some 
measure by the excellence of his criticism. His discourse 
on Guidi's Endimione^ which was his first attempt of the 


kind, though it contains many sound remarks, suffers from its 
egregious style in which he seeks to outvie Guidi himself, the 
most ambitious of the Pindarists. Gravina's other work, Delia 
Ragione Poetica, on the contrary, is esteemed the best treatise 
on aesthetics ever produced in Italy. Some of its propo- 
sitions may no longer be deemed tenable, but, taken as a 
whole, it is a noble study, and well adapted to the purpose 
of regenerating literature. 

Zeno (1669-1750) is in this connexion chiefly famous for 
the part which he took in publishing the Giornale de Lette- 
rati, the best Italian periodical of the last century. He was 
by all accounts a wonderful man. Without a touch of literary 
jealousy, he did all in his power to assist merit wherever 
it might be found, and his letters testify as much to his 
kindness of heart as to his learning and critical acumen. 
Zeno is remembered also for his notes on the Eloquenza 
Italiana of Fontanini. The latter was an insane fanatic who, 
to swell the volume of the Index Expurgatorius, took the short 
way of denouncing the works of all writers, whether living or 
dead, as heretical. Among his other projects Zeno intended 
writing an exhaustive account of Italian historians, but having 
heard that Muratori (16721750) was engaged on a similar 
work, generously made over to him the whole of his materials. 

The work which Muratori undertook was one to tax the 
energies of a whole phalanx of scholars. A thorough inven- 
tory had been made of the Italian libraries, and a vast number 
of forgotten books had been exhumed. These had been 
again published, and the time was now come for a new 
critical history of the entire literature. Considering the 
Herculean nature of the task, it is with no small astonish- 
ment that we read that Muratori's magnum opus, his Annali 
d'ltalta, occupied him only eighteen months in writing. 


This despatch was purchased at no cost of accuracy, nor 
was Muratori dissuaded by his saintliness of character and 
catholic orthodoxy from pourtraying in their true colours 
the injuries which Italy had sustained through the temporal 
power of the Popes. It would be demanding, perhaps, too 
much of human nature to expect from Muratori, in addition 
to these virtues, the glory of a perfect style, which he has 
not, but in his grasp of general principles he is in no way 
inferior either to Tassoni or Zeno. Take for instance his 
essays Buono Gusto and Perfetta Poesia, which are both full 
of instruction. 

Scipione Maffei (1675-1755), though not equal to Mura- 
tori as a philosopher, may vie with him in depth of learning 
and longanimity of research. Maffei was no mere critic or 
compiler. He felt a warm interest in the drama, which he 
desired to see reformed on the model of the French theatre, 
then regarded as the most effective in Europe. He made a 
collection of all the most valuable Italian dramatic works, 
and engaged in a controversy with Frate Concina on the 
morality of the theatre. This discussion drew attention to 
a play which Maffei had written, entitled Merope. It was 
translated into various foreign languages and was every- 
where received with the loudest plaudits. It was at this 
time that Francesco Bianchini broke new ground, so far 
as Italy was concerned, by writing a Storia Universale, 
which he found too immense to complete, and a still more 
notable undertaking Giambattista Vico (1668- 174 4), 
in his Scienza Nuova, composed the first philosophy of his- 
tory since Aristotle. Vice's influence on European thought 
is clearly marked, in Comte and Michelet, for instance. He 
anticipated Wolf in his treatment of the Homeric problem, 
and Niebuhr in his attitude towards early Roman history. 




WHILST Arcadian poetry was at the height of its popu- 
larity there appeared at Rome a youthful prodigy in the 
person of Pietro Trapassi (1698-1782), who delighted the 
literary circles by his easy and graceful improvisation. 
Gravina, happening to hear him and struck by his genius, 
adopted him. In allusion to this circumstance Trapassi 
altered his name to Metastasio, from a Greek word signifying 
* removal/ This at least is the general account ; but it seems 
not unlikely, on a comparison of the two names, that the one 
is a translation of the other, just as Melanchthon is of Schwar- 
zerd. Gravina, fully appreciating the boy's capacities and 
wishing him to make a name in literature, induced him to 
abstain from improvising and devote himself to the classics ; 
and, at his death, left him a considerable fortune. Metastasio, 
however, quickly spent it all and was reduced to the utmost 
straits. After a time, by a stroke of good luck, he was com- 
missioned to write a musical drama. This, it was understood, 
was to be exhibited as a birthday honour for the consort of 
the Emperor Charles VI. Stimulated by these motives Meta- 
stasio composed his Orti Esperidi, which immediately gave 
him a place in the* front rank of Italian authors. Marianna 
Bulgarelli, a famous prima donna, had taken the part of Venus 


in the piece, and was impressed with the notion that the 
words which she sang were real poetry noble, passionate, 
and melodious. She accordingly applied for an introduction 
to the writer. Metastasio became a frequent visitor at her 
house and there met a celebrated musician, Porpora, who 
offered to teach him his own art. Metastasio proved an apt 
pupil, and, having obtained an insight into the principles of 
music as well as those of verse, was able to turn his know- 
ledge to account in melodramatic composition. He effected, 
indeed, a perfect equipoise between the two arts, whereas 
previously the melodrama had been almost entirely musical 
and spectacular, the verse merely serving as a frame. 

Tragedy being at a low ebb and comedy debased, through- 
out the seventeenth century the musical drama was constantly 
growing in attractiveness ; but although there were produced 
countless melodramatic works from the time of Rinuccini to 
that of Metastasio it does not appear that the latter was much 
a debtor to any of them. A reservation must be made, how- 
ever, in favour of one author Apostolo Zeno, already alluded 
to as one of the most celebrated critics of the eighteenth 
century. He had also some reputation as a poet, and was 
retained in that capacity for the theatres of his Imperial 
Majesty. Zeno, with his ideas, could not comply with the 
prevailing taste, and he made a strenuous effort to reconcile 
the melodrama with reason, to describe real passions, to 
write poetry. Although his dramas mark a great advance 
on those of his predecessors, still they cannot be termed in 
any sense masterpieces. To Metastasio, however, who suc- 
ceeded Zeno in his office as Court-poet, they served as a 
signpost pointing out in what direction excellence might be 

As a young man Metastasio wrote a tragedy entitled 

I 2 


Giustino, of which the subject was taken from Trissino's Italia 
Liberata. There is in this play hardly anything suggestive 
of the writer's destined triumphs, the metre being the languid 
hendecasyllabics of Trissino's poem ; while, to add to its 
faults, it is touched with the frigidity and formalism of Gra- 
vina's tragedies. One thing, however, may be noted in it 
it ends happily. It is said that Zeno, the first to adopt this 
artifice, did so at the request of Charles VI, who wished the 
audience to leave in a good humour. But Metastasio, before 
seeing the principle reduced to practice in Zeno's works, had 
heard something to a similar effect from Gravina, who ob- 
served in the case of Aeschylus that, instead of bringing the 
supposed horrors visibly before the spectators, he intention- 
ally caused them to be reported. 

In order to judge Metastasio fairly it must be remembered 
that he laboured under severe limitations. He had to con- 
sider not only the requirements of the drama proper, but 
those of music. So many female voices must be provided, 
for, such-and-such a scene must end with a duet, etc., etc. 
Writing under these conditions it is almost impossible that 
Metastasio should have done much better. He succeeded 
in producing plays which might be exhibited without music 
works of art. In one sense there is too much art in them, 
Metastasio being more in love with the beautiful in nature 
than the true. The result is a certain dull uniformity in the 
personages, their modes of thinking and acting ; nor in other 
ways can Metastasio evade the charge of being mannered. 
He is accused of possessing but a limited vocabulary and, 
although no language is so rich in harmonies as Italian, of 
choosing only one key and cleaving to it. There is some 
foundation for these charges; but those who make them ap- 
pear to forget the peculiar character of the melodrama its 


association with music, which was bound to have a modifying 
influence both on the rhythms and the diction. 

The only other writer of first-rate importance during this 
period is Goldoni. Before anything can be said of him, 
however, it will be necessary to take up the subject of comic 
literature at the point where it was dropped, and describe 
the phases it passed through, until finally it came into Gol- 
doni's hands. The reader will remember what was said in a 
previous chapter as to the slavish following of things Spanish. 
In the -te&W&iteenth century that country gave birth to a famous 
writer, Lope de Vega, who, adhering to the popular type of 
the drama, the mystery, produced a very large number of plays 
composed in that style. As we have already shown, sacred 
representations had once been the fashion in Italy, but. were 
driven out more than a century before by the operation of 
the critical spirit. Lope's works therefore had all the charm 
of novelty for the Italians, who eagerly imitated their pecu- 
liarities, among which were included quaint conceits, gro- 
tesque characters, false situations and affected passion. 

The most notable representatives of this school were 
Jacopo Cicognini and his son Andrea Giacinto, who 
flourished during the first half of the seventeenth century. 
The former in his early manhood had been guided by the 
better traditions of the native drama ; it was only in his old 
age that he commenced to ape the mannerisms of Lope de 
Vega. The younger Cicognini essayed the same thing, and 
his attempts were more fortunate. With a diction less pure 
than Jacopo's he succeeded, to a much greater extent, in 
catching the spirit of his master was bold, animated, em- 
phatic. Indeed, it is evident, and cannot be denied, that, 
amidst the confusion inflicted on the world of letters by the 
social and political changes of the seventeenth century, 


comedy in one particular was improved. Amorous intrigues 
were no longer the only stuff treated of by the comic writer. 
Moreover Cicognini is most prolific in accidents, and mani- 
pulates them with such address as to keep the reader in 
suspense to the close of the play. 

Meanwhile a new school arose, which sought to vie with 
the French dramaturges. Moliere had many followers, of 
whom Girolanio Gigli deserves particular mention. Gigli 
was the author of a play, Don Pirlone, based on Tartuffe, 
but written with so much ability that the imitation was 
effectually concealed, and the piece was regarded, fairly, as 
original. Gigli, however, though a keen, pungent writer, 
produced but few works, and therefore did not effect that 
alteration in the taste of his countrymen which might other- 
wise have been expected from him. 

Far more abundant are the plays of Fagiuoli, a Florentine 
(1660-1742), and Pietro Chiari (d. 1785), a Modenese, both 
dramatists par metier. Neither of them possessed a spark of 
genius. Fagiuoli, like his French models, affected a classical 
regularity in the form of his dramas, but in disposing his in- 
cidents betrays great feebleness, and any attempt at dramatic 
intrigue lands him in evident difficulty. His diction is gener- 
ally more graceful and pure than that of the Cicognini school, 
but he falls into one mistake. When his vulgar characters 
talk in the Florentine dialect he makes them distort words 
far more than the common people actually used to do. His 
object, of course, was to raise a laugh ; but he sacrificed truth, 
and now, at any rate, his provincialisms are wearisome. 
Chiari, besides certain mad and impossible romances, whose 
success rather turned his head, wrote seven volumes of 
comedies in verse. He was sufficiently daring in his experi- 
ments, but the result was not happy. Neither Fagiuoli nor 


Chiari could depict the habits of the age, and their works 
now suffer deserved neglect. 

Such was the condition of the Italian stage when Carlo 
Goldoni (1707-1793) appeared to reform it. From his ear- 
liest years, which were passed at Venice, he was familiar with 
theatrical exhibitions. His grandfather, who was in good 
circumstances, used to regale his guests with dramatic repre- 
sentations, and his father kept a puppet-show in the house 
for Goldoni's sole delectation. The elder Goldoni, having 
squandered his patrimony, attempted to mend matters by 
practising as a physician at Rome, while the son was bred 
to the law. He won considerable success in his profession, 
but the dramatic instinct, fostered through two generations, 
proved too strong to be held in. After several essays in 
tragedy, tragi-comedy and the. melodrama, whereby he 
tested his powers, Goldoni seriously took up the task of re- 
storing Italian comedy and placing it on a level with that of 
France. His labour was not in vain. Of this we have gra- 
tuitous testimony in a letter of Voltaire, who described him 
as having rescued Italy from the hands of the harlequins. 
Goldoni's services to Italian literature can, indeed, scarcely 
be overestimated. He composed about a hundred and fifty 
comedies, in which he dealt with every phase of domestic 
life, sketched every passion, and showed in other ways a 
thorough comprehension of his art. His characterisations 
are true to life, his language natural, and his treatment 
generally is marked by none of that extravagance which 
had disfigured the commedia dell' arte. He restored comedy 
to the purity of form which it possessed before the imitators 
of Lope de Vega miscellanized it by an admixture of foreign 

Goldoni's achievements won for him great respect, even 


reverence, on the part of the Italian nation ; but in revenge 
they excited the bitterest resentment in two classes of persons 
lovers of the seventeenth century drama, who could hardly 
be expected to give up their idol without a struggle, and a 
coterie of learned men, who, whilst approving his programme, 
were instigated by various motives chiefly jealousy to 
thwart and disparage him. Count Carlo Gozzi ( 1720-1 806) 
to be carefully distinguished from his brother Count Gaspare, 
a different man in all respects rendered himself especially 
conspicuous by his enmity to Goldoni, and, casting about 
for some method of attack, became the champion of the 
commedia d^l' arte. In conjunction with Sacchi, a famous 
comedian of the day, he produced a play which he entitled 
Z' Amore delle Tre Melarance, a farrago of fantastic and super- 
natural personages, incantations, wonderful adventures, and 
everything likely to appeal to the hearts of the populace. 
This, being acted at the carnival in Venice, obtained a com- 
plete success, and its author was flattered by Baretti as the 
most original genius Italy had ever known and comparable 
only to Shakespeare. Elated at this triumph, Gozzi proceeded 
to publish several volumes of what he called Fiabe, and 
wrote a discourse in which he openly vilified Chiari and 
Goldoni. The efforts he makes to exalt impromptu at the 
expense of written comedy are extremely clumsy and excite 
the question whether he properly understood either the one 
or the other. His theories, if such loose talk can be dignified 
by the name, are dictated solely by antagonism to Goldoni, 
and in his dramas all that he did was to exaggerate the bad 
features already introduced by the Cicognini. 

Italians agree in assigning to Goldoni the first place among 
their comic writers ; but, needless to say, he is not faultless. 
His works were injured by the haste with which they were 


produced. In one year alone he composed no less than 
sixteen comedies. He was thus prevented from giving to 
his dramas those final touches they want in order to be 
perfect. As it is, they are marred by redundancy, by that 
loquacity which is, as it were, the congenital vice of comic 
writers. Another defect, naturally more strongly felt by 
Italians than by foreigners, is that, in spite of the trouble 
he took to acquire pure Tuscan, he never was able to attain 
that hardly definable something, that atticism (let us call 
it), which in former days had gone far to redeem works 
of little or no sterling merit. The comedies Goldoni wrote 
in his native dialect are looked upon by Venetians as 

The natural order of things would prescribe that, having 
reviewed the fortunes of comedy and the melodrama in the 
eighteenth century, we should now proceed to consider the 
position of tragedy during the same epoch. It will be con- 
venient, however, at this point to allude to certain persons 
who, though they do not rank high as original writers, played 
no unimportant part in the regeneration of Italian letters. 
The special task assigned to them was that of bringing before 
their country models of good writing. During the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries, ages sufficiently unlike his own, 
Dante's influence had ceased to operate. Now, in the general 
but vague desire for reform, attention began once more to 
be paid to him. An account of the way this came about will 
show better than anything else the depravation of taste and 
the depth to which Dante had sunk in the estimation of his 

The restitution to the great Florentine of his rightful place 
is due in a large measure to Alfonso Varano (1705-1 788), a 
man of distinguished family, who spent his whole life in the 


study of the national literature. He seems to have attempted 
many sorts of composition, sonnets, panegyrics and the like ; 
but his most famous poem, apart from those which will 
shortly be named, is his Incanteismo, an eclogue which won 
for him fame throughout Italy. He composed some re- 
spectable tragedies also in imitation of Maffei's Merope. It 
is doubtful, however, whether all these works combined would 
have given him lasting remembrance without his Visioni, the 
origin of which was as follows : 

The theory had been enounced by Voltaire that Chris- 
tianity is as much opposed to poetry as paganism is 
favourable to it. Varano, who was a very pious man, was 
greatly scandalized by this saying and resolved to confute it. 
In the preface to his Visioni he cites Dante, in particular the 
episode of Ugolini, as worthy of comparison with anything in 
the entire range of pagan literature. The Visioni themselves, 
based on Dante and the books of the Bible, present a notable 
contrast to Varano's earlier works, written in a flowery and 
grandiloquent style, and accordingly after the success of his 
Visioni he rejected several as unripe juvenile compositions. 
To-day it is not easy to comprehend the enthusiasm which 
greeted the Visioni, and led even Frugoni to indite compli- 
mentary verses to ' his excellence the divine Alfonso Varano/ 
The harshness, dissonance and Dantesque rhythm, gained 
by lavish expenditure of midnight oil or wanton abuse of 
daylight, only show that Dante is inimitable. 

Varano's action was not universally approved. The 
Arcadians and the partisans of French literature regarded 
it as a direct challenge to themselves. Count Francesco 
Algarotti (1712-1764), especially, amused himself with dis- 
creditable sarcasms concerning Dante, and, in collaboration 
with Frugoni and Bettinelli, edited a book of blank verse as 


a model for novices. Algarotti, however, was a courtier, and 
with the astuteness born of long intercourse with princes 
perceived that the wind was veering in Dante's favour. He 
therefore dissociated himself from his colleagues and declared 
that he had had no share in Bettinelli's evil designs. Saverio 
Bettinelli (1718-1808) was a Jesuit, a man of keen obser- 
vant intellect, but shallow. As he outlived Parini and Alfieri 
and was older than Monti and Foscolo, he was called in his 
old age the Nestor of Italian men of letters, and at one time 
his Risorgimento (T Italia enjoyed a high reputation. Patriotic 
Italians, however, will never forgive his Lettere di Virgilio agli 
Arcadi, a senseless libel, in which with impudence and pro- 
fanity he assailed the Father of Italian Literature. These 
disgraceful epistles drew a reply, Difesa di Dante, from Gas- 
pare Gozzi. Gaspare, unlike his brother, was naturally mo- 
dest and retiring, but the burning indignation which he felt 
at Bettinelli's indecencies overcame all his reserve. When in 
1758 Antonio Zappi, a Venetian, projected a splendid edition 
of all Dante's works, he invited Gaspare Gozzi to write a vin- 
dication of the poet. Gozzi accepted the offer ; but, instead of 
answering Bettinelli in his own vulgar and declamatory style, 
assumed a pleasant ironical tone. He paints the excitement 
of the shades in Elysium over the Virgilian letters. The poets 
assembled there accuse Bettinelli of forgery and counsel him 
to read over the Commedia at his leisure, that so he may judge 
of it with greater modesty and discretion. This intelligence 
is supposed to have been communicated to Zappi by Anton 
Francesco Doni, an eccentric genius of the sixteenth century. 
Gaspare Gozzi (1713-1786) was so worthy and amiable 
that a few words may fitly be spared to him. He was born 
of an illustrious family at Venice and, having been bereft of 
his parents in childhood, devoted himself to literature. He 


married a wife of like tastes with himself, and they had many 
children. As Gozzi had no aptitude for business, his patri- 
mony was soon spent, and he was compelled to eke out a 
livelihood by correcting proofs, writing reviews and pre- 
faces, and translating from those languages with which he 
was conversant. However, he did not entirely forswear ori- 
ginal composition, and Monti calls him the most classical 
prose-writer of his age. It is fitting, therefore, to divide his 
writings into two classes those which are mere journey-work, 
as for instance a version he made of a very long work by 
Fleury, and those more properly his own. Of the latter 
the most celebrated are his Osservatore and Sermoni. The 
Osservatore was a periodical, copied from the Spectator of 
Addison and his friends, and in contributing to it Gozzi dis- 
played a prolific faculty for invention, an easy and graceful 
style, purity of language, and an urbane but most poignant 
satire. He thus won the name of the Lucian of Italy. In 
his Sermoni he chose Horace as a pattern and happily illus- 
trated his theory of what imitation in these cases ought to be. 
This is, that the earlier writer may be taken as a guide up to 
a certain point, after which the disciple should be able to strike 
out a course for himself. 

Gozzi' s judgment was distinguished by its sanity and 
moderation, qualities conspicuously lacking in his friejid 
Giuseppe Baretti (17171789). The latter, however, was no 
less zealous a crusader against bad taste. In his youth he 
had been an omnivorous reader, and the habit seems to have 
occasioned his well-wishers some alarm. At any rate, one 
day a certain acquaintance, eager for the boy's improvement, 
tore from him a copy of Marini and gave him one of Berni 
instead. From that moment Berni became his god. In 
1751 Baretti passed over to England, where he published 


the Italian Library and his fine dictionary, and made the 
acquaintance of Johnson, Burke, and other eminent men. 
On his return he availed himself of his English studies to 
attempt by criticism a reform of the national literature. But 
for this task Baretti was hardly qualified. He had nothing 
of the calmness, the self-possession of a philosopher; but 
was, on the contrary, vehement, obstinate, intolerant, the 
slave of his own predilections. His Frusta Letteraria is 
remarkable for the honesty, variety, and capriciousness of 
its judgments. He pronounced on writers without the least 
regard to the times in which they lived, and, led away by some 
inscrutable prejudice, fiercely attacked a great author for the 
object of elevating an obscure poetaster. Evidently this 
Frusta is a book which craves cautious handling. It con- 
tains ample proofs of Baretti's genius and independence, but 
if his opinions had prevailed the result would have been 
chaos. Baretti died in 1789 in London. 

The writer, however, who contributed most of all to the 
overthrow of the Arcadians was Melchiorre Cesarotti 
(1730-1808). He made his debut in literature by translating 
a tragedy of Aeschylus and three of Voltaire. These ver- 
sions are not at all out of the common they may even be 
described as weak. Cesarotti, however, formed a close friend- 
ship with one of the Sackvilles, who told him of the poems of 
Ossian, then recently published by Macpherson. Fascinated 
by such specimens as could be conveyed to him in bad 
Italian, Cesarotti set himself to learn English. In about six 
months he had translated into Italian verse all of Ossian 
which had been published up to that date. Ossian's poems, 
as is well known, occasioned great controversy their 
authenticity was impugned. But the question whether or 
not they are genuine has no bearing on their importance as 


regards Italy. Macpherson's prose was often rough, bom- 
bastic, ungainly. The Italian verse of Cesarotti, on the con- 
trary, was most elegant. He repeated Chiabrera's experi- 
ment of combining words, but carried it to far greater lengths. 
As was natural, the Arcadians were horrified at his licence 
and did their best to put him down ; but the magic of his 
verse had an ineffable charm for the generality of Italians, 
attracted both by its novelty and splendour. Cesarotti there- 
fore triumphed signally. 

A few years later he ventured on a still more daring 
attempt by offering to treat Homer in the same summary 
manner as the Caledonian bard. Considering that respect 
for Homer was in a large measure conventional, and that the 
Iliad was simply a mass of materials for some great future 
poem, he, Cesarotti, undertook to construct that poem. 
As evidence of his intention he changed the title of the work 
and called it Morte d' Ettore. Although it was allowed both 
by friends and foes that the poem had in it many eloquent 
passages, Cesarotti's warmest, most sincere admirers, deplored 
its production, and he himself, perceiving his mistake, joined 
in the general laugh which consigned his precious Iliad to 
oblivion. Cesarotti's prose was elegant but not in the Italian 
manner. His style in fact was adapted from the French, 
and Foscolo observed that Cesarotti would be found, if the 
terminations were altered, to have written not only in French 
but in very good French. 

Chiefly through the patronage of Maria Theresa and 
Joseph II, the primacy of literature, which had once per- 
tained to Florence, was now transferred to Milan. There 
Giuseppe Parini (1729-1790) attempted to do for letters 
what Beccaria and others had already accomplished for moral 
science. Parini was born of poor parents, and a large part 


of his life was spent under conditions which were most hateful 
to his noble and aspiring temper. He was first a lawyer's 
clerk and then, after his poems had procured for him some 
repute, a tutor in different aristocratic families. Although 
the scenes which he had to witness were extremely 
odious to him, they had their value, for they quickened his 
observation and afforded subjects for his pen. Among 
Italian men of letters at this time there were two parties the 
grammarians, who clung to the traditional style, without, 
however, infusing a breath of real interest into it, and the 
progressists who, in adopting French ideas, imported along 
with them French idioms. Parini took a middle course. 
Whilst an advocate of progress, he attempted to keep the 
Italian language as pure as possible. Eventually he was 
appointed professor of eloquence at the Studio di Brera at 
Milan, and lectured on literature. His discourses, wherein 
he eschews grandeur of expression and imposing abstractions, 
are a standing testimony to his good sense and delicacy of 
taste. Unlike his contemporary Francesco Milizia, who, 
in order to dispose of the Michelangiolists, was disrespectful 
to the great sculptor himself, Parini could appreciate Petrarch 
and those who successfully imitated him, and yet mete out a 
just condemnation to those who, by mingled feebleness and 
ambition, had made ' Petrarchist ' a term of reproach. 

But Parini was something more than a critic. His ode 
Caduta, in which he gave a practical illustration of his 
principles, is one of the most felicitous in Italian literature. 
His chief work, however, is a mock didactic poem // Gwrno. 
As has been said, Parini in his quality of tutor had ample 
opportunities for studying the manners of the great, and the 
sentiment which the spectacle had evoked was that of disgust. 
Parini was not alone in that feeling. An immense number 


of satirists were at work scourging the conscience. Unfor- 
tunately, this open method of war produced not the least 
impression on the objects of their attack, and Parini, with his 
profound knowledge of the human heart, perceived that the 
surest means for effecting his purpose was to dissemble. He 
composed a work which was as striking for the novelty of 
the design as for the perfect way in which that design was 
executed. The author feigns to instruct a young nobleman 
in the duties and usages with which he will have to comply 
if he aspires to the character of a finished gentleman. In 
order to do this more conveniently he breaks up the day into 
its four component parts Mattino, Mezzogiorno^ Vespro and 
Notte the titles of the subdivisions of the poem. Partly 
that he might give a greater vraisemblance to his work, partly 
to enhance the irony, Parini enters into the minutest details 
and gravely sets forth the infinite follies constituting the code 
of politeness. 

77 Giorno is a work of high genius. Not only is it written 
in a most exquisite style, but the arrangement evinces great 
judgment. A mere enumeration, however skilful, might have 
affected us with a sense of monotony, but Parini forestalls this 
possibility by weaving in some admirable episodes, such as 
the story of the invention of trie trac, the discovery of the 
sofa, the peace between Cupid and Hymenaeus, the origin of 
social inequality, and the recital of the ills of a domestic 
guilty of treading on the foot of the vergine Caccia delle 
Grazie alunna. The poem is in blank verse, of which Parini 
has a rare mastery. Frugoni, who regarded this class of 
poetry as his special province, confessed after reading Parini 
that he never knew till then how to write blank verse. And 
yet Parini was dissatisfied. As he went on he seemed to gain, 
more and more, fresh insight into the potentialities of his 


art. This caused him to delay the publication of the last two 
parts of his Giorno, which, in effect, only saw the light after 
his death. To us, however, they appear quite as finished as 
we could have hoped, nor can anyone detect the slightest 
inequality between the later and the earlier instalments. 

Among Parini's contemporaries were many writers of note. 
Passeroni (1713-1803) indited a long epic in caricature on 
the life of Cicero, which, however, cannot be commended. 
He was more happy in his fables. This latter sort of poetry 
was cultivated also by Pignotti (1739-1812), author of a 
history of Tuscany, by Bertola (1753-1798) and by Clasio, 
and their works are still read with pleasure. The only other 
author to whom we need pay attention is Giambattista Casti 
(1721-1804), who wrote a poetical satire on the European 
courts entitled Animali Parlanti. He composed also several 
melodramas of a comic nature, notably Congiura di Catilina, 
and a political satire on the Russian Court, in eight-lined 
stanzas, // Poema Tar tar o. These works display considerable 
talent, but repel by their coarseness. 



THE vicissitudes of the tragic drama during the eighteenth 
century have now to be recorded. In reference to Scipione 
MafFei mention was made incidentally of Merope. This play 
was represented first of all at Modena, and then repeatedly 
in various cities of Italy. Maffei was overwhelmed with 
congratulations from every part of Europe. His tragedy was 
translated by Pope. Voltaire also thought very highly of 
it, wrote a flattering letter to the author antf afterwards com- 
posed a piece on the same subject, when, characteristically, 
he published some disparaging remarks about it under an 
assumed name. In Italy itself, where theatrical taste was not 
yet thoroughly educated, Merope was compelled to submit to 
certain transformations. It was reduced to prose, love-scenes 
and interludes were inserted in it ; but from the moment of 
its production it became a necessary part of every manager's 

Whilst Gravina, like most other wise critics, exerted himself 
to quell the Gallicizing spirit, Pier Jacopo Martello (1665- 
1727) did his best to foster it. He caused French plays to be 
translated and turned into prose, and, having seen them in high 


favour with the audience, endeavoured to introduce French 
tragedy bodily without any alteration in structure, mechanism, 
or even versification. He was very anxious that the metre of 
tragedy should be Alexandrine, and sought to find precedents 
for it. He could not, however, find anything later or more 
relevant than some fragments of Ciullo d' Alcamo. As this 
did not satisfy the critics, Martello fell back on another 
method of justifying himself. He declared that his verse was 
italianissimo, that it consisted in fact of two short hepta- 
syllabic verses like those employed by Speroni in his Canace. 
Owing to the controversy which arose about them the verses 
in question received the name Martelliani^ but they were never 
domesticated in Italian tragedy. Occasionally they were used 
in playful compositions, and they were adopted, in some of his 
writings, by Qoldoni. 

Maffei was a sincere admirer of French tragedy, but, as he 
was not blind to its defects, he did not allow himself to be 
trapped into the prevalent belief that the dramas of the reign 
of Louis XIV were equal to those of Sophocles. He knew 
also that the great French writers were indebted for not a few 
hints to his own countrymen of an earlier date, that for 
examples of tragic writing an Italian need not look abroad. 
He, therefore, tried to copy the excellences of Trissino, 
Rucellai, Giraldi,Tasso and others, whilst avoiding their faults. 
And in this he was greatly aided by the criticisms of Tassoni, 
Zeno and Muratori. 

Maffei's Merope did not owe its fame to mere accident. 
It has much intrinsic merit. The scenes are skilfully laid, 
the characters are veracious, and there is a great variety of 
accident. Yet this drama had no progeny. It was not given 
to Maffei to create a school of tragedy. That distinction 
was reserved for Vittorio Alfieri. Before referring to that 

K 2 


great master of dramatic composition it will be right to 
devote some space to Antonio Conti (1677-1749), who 
enriched his country with four pieces of political tragedy. 
Conti lived for some time in England, where he learnt to love 
Shakespeare. On his return to Italy, at the mature age of 
fifty, he conceived the thought of carrying tragedy a step 
further than Maffei had brought it, and, adopting a suggestion 
of Gravina, chose his subjects out of ancient Roman history. 
He composed, one after another, Giunio Bruto, Marco Bruto, 
Cesare and Druso. These dramas are best on the side of 
invention. Thus in Giunio Bruto Conti makes Tito, son of 
the liberator, fall in love with the daughter of the tyrant. The 
episode is admirably introduced, and that for two reasons : 
first because it leads to interesting situations, and secondly 
because it gives further expression to the grand but inexor- 
able character of the protagonist. The most serious defect 
in Conti' s plays is their want of artistic form. In his moral 
conception of the drama he may possibly excel Al fieri ; but in 
other qualities, such as male and sinewy language, pregnant 
breviloquence in the dialogue, and dramatic movement, he 
comes far short of him. This, perhaps, was because he did 
not pay attention to dramatic poetry till late in life, or he may 
have had a greater faculty for conceiving ideas than for putting 
them into execution. 

The life of Alfieri (1749-1803) reads like a romance. It 
is a remarkable instance of genius triumphing over difficulties 
of a most unusual kind. He was born of a noble family at 
Asti, and, like others of his class, he appears to have regarded 
literary studies as a disparagement to his rank. As a boy he j 
was sent to school, but he seems to have turned his oppor-i 
tunities to little or no account, and when the time came for 
him to bid his preceptors good-bye, felt it a blessed release. 


Thereafter he plunged into amusements and dissipations, 
but amidst them all was continually tormented by an inward 
unrest, as though in some way he were not fulfilling his 
destiny. At this time his reading entirely consisted of a few 
French novels and a drama or two of Metastasio, but, far 
from comprehending the true worth of the latter, he thought 
of them as libretti. 

In January, 1774, when Alfieri was watching by the bed- 
side of a sick mistress, the idea struck him of relieving the 
weary hours by sketching the scene of a play in which the 
persons were to be Photinus, a woman whom he ignorantly 
named Lachesis, and Cleopatra. The drama, under the title 
of Cleopatra, was acted about a year later in the Teatro 
Carignano at Turin and received with great applause. This 
unlooked-for success threw the lucky, or luckless, author into 
a state of cruel perplexity. He was, he knew, utterly desti- 
tute of equipment for a literary career. Here at twenty- 
seven he was ignorant even of the rudiments of learning ! 
Except when he availed himself of the Piedmontese dialect, he 
had always been used to speak French, and did not know a 
jot of Italian properly so called. In order to fit himself for 
his mission he underwent a strict apprenticeship. As a first 
step he placed himself in the charge of a tutor that he might 
learn those simple lessons \\hich he had neglected in boy- 
hood. He then betook himself to Tuscany, where Italian 
was spoken in the greatest purity, and attempted to rid him- 
self of the Gallicisms which clung to him as the effect of 
long usage, and from which to the last he could never wholly 
emancipate himself. Here, however, he was confirmed in 
his determination to win for Italy that distinction in tragedy 
which Gravina, Maffei and Conti, with all their philosophizing 
and poetizing, had failed to achieve. Having made up his 


mind to this, he published a kind of manifesto Delia 
tirannide, in which he announced himself as the uncom- 
promising advocate of liberty, in politics, in morals, and in 

Alfieri wrote many works widely differing in character, 
and by no means of uniform merit, but all breathe a 
generous love of country, and have as their supreme 
object the making of an Italian nation. Owing to their 
number it is impossible to go over all in detail. It must 
suffice to select the more important. His epic Etruria 
Liberata, in which he sings of the assassination of Alessandro 
de' Medici by his kinsman Lorenzino, need not detain us. 
The time had gone by for the writing of epics, and Alfieri's 
impulsive temperament ill suited him for the composition 
of a work demanding the easy flow, pompous description, 
and full treatment of a heroic poem. His version of the 
Aeneid, made for his own pleasure, and on which, being 
a labour of love, he bestowed all possible pains, shows 
clearly enough that his talents did not lie in this direction. 
He slightly improved the sonnet of his day by giving to it a 
robuster gait, but his odes, though the subjects are worthy 
of Pindar e.g. America Liber ata and Parigi Sbastigliato 
are wanting in force, His satire verges too much on 
invective ; he is too pungent and direct, and of the subtle 
irony of Parini he has nothing. His epigrams partake of the 
same fault, though some of them are very fine, and both in 
epigram and satire he is distinctly original. His prose is full 
of matter; the style is manly, and the language, with the 
exceptions already noted, pure. 

One cause of offence, which pervades all his writings but 
is most visible in his prose, is a harshness in the rhythm. 
It is hard to say from what this defect arose, whether acci- 


dentally, from the fact that he wrote Italian, so to speak, as 
a foreigner, or, as is not impossible, from a deliberate inten- 
tion, his object being to win back the language from the 
nervelessness and flaccidity to which it had been reduced 
by the grammarians. In any case it is a defect. To say, 
however, with some, that Alfieri must be regarded as a philo- 
sopher and not as an artist, is a gross mistake. This may 
be true of him as a prose -writer, but, applied to his dramatic 
composition, the verdict is ludicrously false. His dramas 
are of a simplicity which is in striking contrast with the con- 
ception of the art then prevalent, and which it might be 
thought was copied from Greece. The reverse, however, is 
the truth. At the time when he began to write, he did not 
know so much as the names of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and 
Euripides, and, never having read any French tragedies, was 
not acquainted with their methods, even indirectly. 

The co-incidence, therefore, is fortuitous, or rather, we 
might say, is to be ascribed to identical conclusions worked 
out by men in whom tragedy was incarnate. One of these 
conclusions was that nothing must be introduced to disturb 
the illusion. This was the real meaning of the three unities, 
of time, place, and action : and Alfieri by sheer instinct 
obeyed the same rule. This instinct was affirmed by medi- 
tation and his dramas, commencing from his abbozzaccio, as 
he called it, Cleopatra to Saul, and the two Bruttfs show a 
progressive development towards that ideal of tragedy which 
had limned itself on his mind. Alfieri banished the rabble 
of superfluous characters and concentrated his energies on 
the leading personages, who, while they are designed on a 
colossal scale, are rounded off with the patient unfaltering 
hand of a master. His Saul, in particular, is gigantic 
and not unworthy of a place beside the Prometheus of 


Aeschylus. Alfieri's extraordinary success is largely owing to 
what seemed at first an insuperable obstacle his illiteracy. 
It was this which gave him boldness and independence, 
which made him refuse to bow to convention and vain 

Alfieri had a theory that towards the age of forty the crea- 
tive powers of the mind are exhausted, and that a writer 
should then abandon original composition for the exercise of 
his critical faculties. Conformably with this opinion he did 
not attempt, after that period, to add to his list of tragedies. 
His last years were spent in learning Greek, speculating on 
art, translating the classics, and criticising his own works. 
As regards the last, he pointed out with admirable candour 
what he considered to be their defects, while, at the same 
time, he did not allow himself to be prevented by a false 
feeling of modesty from instancing their merits. He thus, as 
it were, combated in advance the attacks which were made on 
his reputation by A. W. Schlegel, and which were taken up, 
to their everlasting shame, by a horde of degenerate Italians. 
Alfieri's translations of Aristophanes and Terence are good, 
and occasionally even brilliant, but it must be confessed, his 
genius does not lend itself much to works of this class. His 
own comedies, of which he wrote six, are deficient in the 
negligent ease, the happy abandon which is the essence of 
good comedy. On the whole, however, Alfieri is one of the 
grandest figures in Italian literature since Tasso. 

It will be convenient at this point to take a side-glance at 
Sicily, the birth-place of Italian literature. At length, in the 
eighteenth century, after a long period of sterility, there 
began to appear in it new signs of life. Among the Sicilians 
who distinguished themselves at this time may be mentioned 
Caruso, Mongitore, Di Giovanni, Amico and Testa. Mon- 


gitore especially worked in the field of Sicilian biography, 
and produced an immense work, entitled Bibliotheca Sicula, 
comprising the lives of the most eminent Sicilians from the 
earliest times to his own. The compilation, however, though 
a monument of patience and erudition, is wholly uncritical. 
At a much later period Domenico Scina, in order to justify 
his existence as royal historiographer, wrote an account of 
Sicilian literature during the eighteenth century. From these 
writings it is evident that there was always a plentiful supply 
of learned men in the island, of whom, however, not one 
attained to real distinction. The reason is probably twofold : 
first, the political isolation of Sicily, and secondly, its distance 
from Tuscany, compelling scholars to learn the Tuscan speech 
as a dead language from books. 

Meantime the native Sicilian dialect was not quite neglected. 
From the sixteenth century onwards we meet with a goodly 
number of writers all striving to ennoble their mother speech. 
Such, for example, are Antonio Veneziano (surnamed the 
Sicilian Petrarch), Monsignore Requesens Rao, Eredia, Val- 
legio, Giudici, Aversa, Gaetani, Montagna, Rallo, Triolo, 
Puglisi, Catania, and many others. The most ambitious 
however was Giuseppe Vitali, the Blind Man of Ganci, who 
wrote a long epic poem Sicilia Liberata, which treated of the 
Norman conquest of the island, and which, defective as we 
now find it, was the admiration of his contemporaries. Still 
greater celebrity was gained by Domenico Tempio, not 
so much from his talents as from the impurity of his 
poems, which in this respect are worthy to rank with 

Tempio' s popularity was at its height when Giovanni 
Meli (1740-1815), not then twenty years of age, published 
his Fata Galante, a bernesque poem which, despite the remi- 


niscences which it contained of other writers, had so abundant 
a vein of poetry, such a troop of happy phrases, such exquisite 
and natural tints, as instantly to eclipse all rival compositions ; 
and Sicily, full of enthusiasm, riveted its attention on the 
young aspirant from whom it confidently expected achieve- 
ments as yet unparalleled. These expectations were not 
destined to fall. Meli, as an ecclesiastical dignitary, had the 
entree into the halls of the nobles, then (owing to the Spanish 
ascendancy) intensely exclusive and aristocratic, and his re- 
searches in science had made him Professor of Chemistry in 
the University of Palermo, but he never allowed himself to 
be seduced by extraneous ambitions. He fraternized with 
the people, observed their ways, learnt their proverbs, and 
thus caught their essential spirit. His writings therefore 
have a distinct and original and indigenous flavour, like those 
of Burns. 

Meli composed quite an encyclopaedia of verse eclogues, 
lyrical poems, satires, elegies, fables, of which a large number 
were published after his decease. The three most important 
are his Fata Galante already mentioned, Don Chisciotte^ and 
Origine del Mondo. In Don Chtsciotte, a mock heroic poem, 
Meli pretends that Cervantes has omitted some doughty deeds 
of the knight which are well worthy of being sung. While, 
however, the composition has many excellent points, notably 
a lively fancy, one acquainted with Cervantes' masterpiece 
necessarily misses the charm of novelty. The real hero is 
not Don Quixote, but Sancho Panza, whose shade in the 
concluding ' vision ' appears to the author and converses with 
him on the moral of the poem. Although it must needs 
forego the praise of originality Don Chisciotte cannot be 
refused such honour as is due to glamour of style and still 
greater glamour of colouring. 


Mali's Origine del Mondo is a pleasant satire on various 
philosophical theories regarding the origin of the world. 
Jupiter is depicted in the midst of his celestial family, 
who debate as to the best mode of creating the world 
which as yet is not. The decision ultimately is that it 
shall be composed of Jupiter's body, which is forthwith 
pulled to pieces. In allusion to the ancient arms of the 
island (representing a head with three legs bended) Sicily 
is imagined to have been formed from the head of the 
god. It is evident the poem has a special reference to 

Meli's odes are somewhat clogged by the mythological 
harness in which, obediently to the ideas of the age, he 
deemed it necessary to envelop them. His fables are inge- 
nious and some of them original, while in naturalness of 
expression he far surpasses most modern fabulists. As a 
satirist he is keen, but not brutal. Meli wrote also a dith- 
yramb which even Sicilians unacquainted with the drinking 
customs and slang of the people find hard reading, but which 
to a connoisseur in such matters affords fresh proof of his ex- 
traordinary powers. His best work, however, is his pastoral 
and anacreontic verse, in which he will never be excelled. 
Though born in the land of idylls he did not copy Theocritus 
versions of Anacreon, however, existed for the all-sufficient 
reason that he did not know the Greek alphabet. On the 
contrary, what he did was to examine the popular songs of 
his country, not that he might ape them, but that he might 
win their secret the art of writing naturally. Meli's poetry 
is quite untranslatable, so much depending on nuances 
or shades of meaning which a foreigner is incapable of 
appreciating, and for which peninsular Italian can find no 
real or satisfying expressions. By his contemporaries 


Alfieri, Cesarotti, Casti, Monti Meli was held in the highest 
esteem. They all knew him to be no mere dealer in pro- 
vincialisms, seeking a spurious reputation by eccentricity 
and caprice, but a genuine poet brimful of the noblest 



THE eighteenth and the earl} 7 part of the nineteenth century 
cannot be said to have produced historians at all comparable 
to Machiavelli or Sarpi. There was, it is true, indefatigable 
research. Every cranny almost in the peninsula was ransacked 
for evidence of the past, but the writers of the period either 
devoted themselves to particular aspects of history, or by accu- 
mulating material prepared the way for future historians. 
Reference has been already made to Muratori, the father 
or, as he has been termed, perhaps more accurately, foster 
father of modern Italian history. Next in succession was 
Pietro Giannone (1676-1748). He was born in a village 
of Monte Gargano, and his parents, advised of his 
unusual talents, sent him to Naples, where he had as his 
teacher the learned Aulisio. Unlike the majority of those 
who have been mentioned in the course of this narrative, 
Giannone entered into his legal studies with zest, and made 
himself known by his essays on the origin of Roman Law. 

It was thus that he became cognizant of a void in Italian 
literature. There were many histories descriptive of war 
and external politics, but a civil history one, that is to say, 
commemorating the changes of laws and institutions under 
the various governments which successively sprang up in 


different parts of the peninsula there was none. Giannone, 
however, perceived that a task of such magnitude, if it was to 
be properly carried out, was beyond the powers of any 
individual writer. Accordingly he resolved to limit f his work 
to the kingdom of Naples. Whilst occupied with it, he 
happened to be engaged in a suit in which it fell to his lot to 
defend the rights of certain citizens against the encroach- 
ments of the bishops. This necessitated the inspection of 
an enormous number of church laws, decretals, edicts, privi- 
leges, and customs, and Giannone was led to see that civil 
history at any rate in the catholic world could not be 
dealt with apart from ecclesiastical history. He arrived at 
the conclusion that the secular power of the church, and 
especially the old feudal pretensions of the Court of Rome 
to the States of Naples and Sicily, had been a fruitful cause 
of controversies and discords. His composition, therefore, 
is somewhat in the nature of a polemic or, it might be 
stricter to say of a scientific work, being a perpetual discus- 
sion of law. This consideration will serve to excuse its 
artistic defects and the frequent thefts from Porzio, Costanzo 
and other historians of Naples. Each of the forty books into 
which the history is divided sets out with a brief historical 
proem, which is made, as it were, the pivot for subsequent 
disquisitions. The chief fault of Giannone' s work is this : 
during the many centuries his history traverses he sees only 
the Empire and the Church contending for the mastery. 
The position of the people he totally ignores. 

A very voluminous writer, who possessed a vivid imagina- 
tion, was Carlo Denina (1731-1813). He was one of the 
class who delighted to call themselves beaux esprits, and first 
brought himself into notice by a work on the vicissitudes of 
literature showy enough, but unsubstantial. For this he 


was visited with the sarcasms of Voltaire, and Denina's fortune 
was made. The highest achievement, however, was a 
historical work entitled Rivoluzioni d' Italia in which he 
displays not only much learning, but something also of the 
philosophic spirit, since he attempts to explore the hidden 
causes which lay behind the events. 

One of the most thoughtful and generously written works 
of the age is Pietro Verri's Storia di Milano. Verri (1728- 
1797) might have ranked with the greatest historians of his 
country but for one grievous and, indeed, unpardonable fault 
his negligent and almost barbarous style. In his Pensieri 
on the spirit of Italian literature, he vehemently protests 
against the tyranny of the schools, embodied in those whom 
he names the Aristotelians of letters ; and full of disgust at 
the vices of the parolai or word-mongers, he positively glories 
in uncouthness. That this was largely affectation is proved 
by those passages in which, involuntarily as it were, he rises 
to eloquence and power. The materials of the Storia were 
drawn, to a considerable extent, from the Memorie della Citta 
e della Campagna di Milano of his countryman Giulini, but 
notwithstanding this and his faults as a stylist, the Milanesi 
persist in regarding him as the best of their historians. 

The man who should restore history to its earlier symmetry 
and graceful artistic form was, however, yet to appear. In 
1808 Carlo Botta (1766-1837) published his Storia della 
guerra della Indepenza americana, which is incontestably a 
masterpiece. Botta was a physician and, moreover, took an 
active part in politics, but he managed to find time for 
indulging his taste for literature. His admiration for the 
Latin and Greek historians, and even more for the Italian 
historians of the sixteenth century, amounted to superstition. 
From them he gleaned those felicities, those charms of 


language, which form such a pleasing contrast with the 
harshness and morosity of the Storia di Milano. If Botta' s 
Storia d' America was received with favour, his Storia d' Italia, 
comprising the twenty-five eventful years from the outbreak 
of the French Revolution to the fall of Buonaparte, was 
hailed with enthusiasm. There were several reasons why 
this was the case. Botta, emboldened by the success of his 
first writing, displayed greater freedom both in thought and 
expression. The subject also was a national one, and it was 
treated by the writer with all the glow of patriotic sentiment. 
By some, indeed, Botta is accused of malignity towards the 
French. They say that he has painted Napoleon far blacker 
than the emperor ever deserved. The justice of this accusa- 
tion may be doubted, and even if it were found to be true, it 
must be remembered that Botta was still smarting from his 
wounds and hardly amenable therefore to the ordinary rules 
of criticism. A more valid objection is that Botta is deficient 
in insight, that he does not understand the political game of 
chess, as appears still more evidently in his continuation of 

Lastly must be named Pietro Colletta (1775-1831). This 
writer was born at Naples; studied mathematics and 
embraced the profession of a soldier. In 1799 he was 
imprisoned and cashiered, he then became a civil engineer. 
Seven years later he rejoined the army, and under Murat 
attained the rank of major-general. After the return of the 
Bourbons he was suffered to keep his post, and on the out- 
break of the revolution of 1821 was sent to Sicily to restore 
order. When Naples was seized by the Austrians, Colletta 
was first imprisoned and afterwards banished to Moravia 
whence he made his way to Florence. Here he was urged by 
several literary friends to set down his reminiscences of the 


events in which he had been implicated, but for Colletta, who 
was wholly unversed in good Italian, this was no easy matter. 
The difficulty, however, was surmounted, partly through 
Colletta's own indefatigable study, and partly through the 
kindness of those same literary friends in revising his 
manuscript; and, as the final result, the work had all the 
appearance of being written by a veteran in authorship. 

Among the poets that adorned the period of the Revolu- 
tion, none is more prominent than Vincenzo Monti (1754- 
1828), who was bom in Romagna and came to Rome to seek 
his fortune. The first composition by which he attracted 
notice was a poem in honour of a celebrated preacher. It 
was a biblical vision in the manner of Varano. Although 
Monti was then only sixteen years old, the piece was highly 
commended, and deemed to possess merits not to be 
traced in its supposed model. After this Monti quickly 
rose to the position of the leading man of letters in Italy. 
Unfortunately for his fame his great abilities were not 
balanced by a corresponding strength of character, and his 
works bear witness to his successive apostasies. His poems 
may be divided into three classes: first, those written in 
support of the Papacy and to discredit the French Revolu- 
tion ; secondly, those indited in the hour of the Revolution's 
triumph ; thirdly, those composed after the accession to power 
of Napoleon Buonaparte. It ought, however, in extenuation 
of this weakness to be recorded that, though Monti's public 
career was deformed by shameless recantations, in private 
he was kindest and most indulgent of men. His poetry 
is clearly influenced by study of the Divine Comedy, which 
in Monti's youth had been drawn from obscurity by the 
imitations of Varano, Bettinelli's Lettere, and Gozzi's reply. 

Almost all Monti's compositions take the form of a vision, 


and this is the case with the very greatest of them all, Bassvil- 
liana. The hero of the poem (which is left unfinished at the 
end of the fourth canto) is Hugo Bassville, an agent of 
the French Republican Government, who, on his arrival at 
Rome, was torn to pieces by the infuriated populace. While 
his corpse lies unburied on the banks of the Tiber, his spirit 
is conducted by an angel on a mysterious pilgrimage. The 
poet takes occasion to review the chief events of the Revo- 
lution and mercilessly chastises the writers who had been 
the primary cause of it. In his Pericolo and Super stizione, 
poems which belong to the second period of Monti's literary 
existence,, he quite alters his tone. To his jaundiced eye 
Louis XVI now appears a tyrant and Pius VI, erewhile 
praised as a strict and holy pastor, is vilified in outrageous 
terms. Thirdly, in his Giove terreno, Spada di Federigo, 
Bardo della selva nera, Jerogamia di Creta, and Api Pana- 
cridi, Monti becomes an abject worshipper of Napoleon. 
After Buonaparte's exit, with the same venality for which he 
had been always notorious, he made his peace with the 
victors, and ceasing to pour forth heroic strains, applied 
himself to the safe, though somewhat humdrum pursuit of 

The world of letters was then agitated by an effort at 
reform on the part of a sect who, in contradistinction to 
frenchified writers, called themselves Purists. This movement 
was the natural sequel to the vigorous protests of those great 
Italian intellects referred to in the last chapter, but in the hands 
of the present leaders it was carried to a ridiculous extreme. 
The most fanatical among them was Antonio Cesari, who 
could find nothing in the compositions of the moderns to 
satisfy him. He himself wrote a variety of works including 
novels, three large volumes which he entitled Bellezze della 


Divina Commedta, translations of several Latin poets, and an 
Antidoto per i giovani studiosi, in which he warned novices 
against all literature posterior to the fourteenth century. 
This egregious apostle of purism Monti resolved to assail, 
in which enterprise he took as his ally his son-in-law Giulio 
Perticari. The latter, while not a man of great intel- 
lectual resource, possessed excellent taste, and was therefore 
well qualified to be Monti's lieutenant. The fruit of their 
joint labours was a work entitled Proposta di correzioni al 
Vocabolario della Crusca, which, though only a grammatical 
treatise, has on it the gleam of genius. 

To conclude what requires to be said about Monti most 
of his work is characterized by monotony of invention. He 
is always bringing spectres and shades of heroes on the 
stage. Hence his poetry has been termed with some force 
a perpetual phantasmagoria. Monti wrote three tragedies. 
Of these Caw Graccho is the best, possessing, indeed, con- 
siderable merit, though the writer exhibits too great a tendency 
to declamation. More notable than his dramas is his trans- 
lation of the Iliad, which is considered equal to Pope's. 

Contemporary with Monti, though a good deal younger, was 
Ugo Foscolo (1777-1827). This celebrated writer and patriot 
was born in the island of Zante, his father being a Venetian 
and his mother a Greek. He was sent as a student to the 
University of Padua, where he attended Cesarotti's lectures on 
the classics. At the age of seventeen he produced a tragedy 
in the style of Alfieri, which was acted at Venice. Foscolo 
threw himself with the utmost enthusiasm into the revolu- 
tionary movement, took service in the army, and was present 
at Genoa when that city was invested by the allies. At 
twenty-nine, in the room of Monti, he was elected Professor 
of Literature at Pavia. A few years later he caused a 

L 2 


tragedy, Ajace, to be played, in which the authorities de- 
tected various distasteful allusions, and he was ordered to 
quit the kingdom. He then betook himself to Tuscany, but 
eventually, as he found it impossible to adapt himself to 
the new conditions, went to live in England, where, thirteen 
years after, he died, at the age of fifty. 

During the course of his troubled life, Foscolo was the 
author of many works. One of the most popular was his 
Jacopo Ortis, the Italian ' Sorrows of Werther/ Ortis, however, 
is a much finer character than his German prototype, for 
whereas Werther falls a victim to his own unhappy passion, 
Foscolo's hero is no mere sentimental swain. Grief for the 
misfortunes of his country is added, as the motive of his 
sacrifice, to the pang of unsuccessful love. Jacopo Ortis was 
felt to be a great book, but it had one defect which caused its 
writer, subsequently, severe compunction, namely, a negligent 
style. Foscolo's chef d'ceuvre is a Jjtfical poem, I Sepolcri. 
Before writing it, and soon after the publication of Ortis, he 
made proof of his powers in two noble odes in honour of 
Luigia Pallavicini. As for / Sepolcri, the cause which im- 
mediately inspired it was Foscolo's indignation with the great 
people of Milan for allowing the remains of Parini to be 
mingled in a common burial-ground with those of robbers 
deposited there by the public executioner. The composition 
has every merit which such a lyric should have choice 
vocabulary, robust style, and ever increasing animation and 
fire. It was read by Bettinelli and Monti, and both pronounced 
it a masterpiece. 

The peculiar feature in / Sepolcri is the wonderful way in 
which Foscolo, whilst drawing his images from ancient 
literature, vivifies them with his own emotions and weds them 
to the circumstances of the hour. It is this which differences 


/ Sepolcri from the frigid and artificial imitations of Pindar, 
which had been current during three centuries, and accredits 
it as real poetry. Following up his success Foscolo designed 
three other lyrical compositions, the most notable being his 
poem Le Grazie. Of this, however, only fragments were 
published. Personal anxieties and the disturbed condition 
of public affairs in Italy did not leave him the requisite 
ease and leisure for carrying his intentions into effect. To 
these causes must be added his high sense of the dignity 
of his vocation, in which he has scarcely an equal either 
in ancient or modern times, and which made him a rigorous 
censor of his own performances. The result was that he 
projected a large number of great works, including a 
translation of the Iliad, which he never completed. 

Foscolo, despite his achievements in lyric poetry, was not 
particularly successful in the drama. In this department the 
best that can be said of him is that of all Alfred's followers 
he is the most like him. His sonnets, on the contrary, in 
which he took Casa as a model, are better than those of 
Alfieri, and some of them, from their passion and strength, 
are as popular as I Sepolcri. Two more works of Foscolo 
may be mentioned, his translation of Sterne's Sentimental 
Journey and his satire entitled Ipercalissi di Didimo Chicrico, 
profeta minimo. The latter is an animated protest, in the 
style of the biblical writers, against the scholars of the 
peninsula for betraying the cause of their country. Had not 
Foscolo himself however supplied the key, the allusions would 
have remained excessively obscure. In England Foscolo was 
a frequent contributor to the Edinburgh and Quarterly Review, 
for which he wrote critical studies on Dante and his age, and 
thereby did much to advance the knowledge of Italian litera- 
ture in his adopted country. Moved also by sympathy for 


the Greeks in their struggle for independence he began a 
work on Homer, but before he had time to finish it, died, it 
is to be feared, of sheer misery. 

Before ending this account of the revolutionary era, it will 
be proper to advert to two other writers Ippolito Pinde- 
monti and Giovanni Fantoni. Pindemonti (1753-1828) 
made himself famous by his lovely rendering of the Odyssey. 
Apart from this he is chiefly celebrated for his rustic poems ; 
and his verse, tinged with gentle melancholy, has gained for 
him the name of the Italian Tibullus. Fantoni (1759-1807), 
better known by his nom de guerre Labindo, wrote lyrical 
poetry after Horace, but, with the exception of a few odes 
inspired by political subjects, his imitations cannot be termed 



IT is proposed to deal in this chapter with two phases 
of sentiment, which, though universal or rather, it might be 
said, incidental to the common human spirit, received special 
expression in Italy at the hands of two writers both intel- 
lectually gigantesque, but in other respects as wide asunder 
as the poles Alessandro Manzoni and Giacomo Leopardi. 
As a lesson in psychology it is interesting to note the effects 
on these master minds of external conditions. To neither 
was the outlook bright, but Manzoni, always serene, always 
hopeful, armed himself with patience and, his eyes having 
seen the salvation of Italy, departed, very painfully alas ! so 
recently as 1873. Leopardi, on the other hand, vexed by 
intolerable contradictions, in vain but ceaseless revolt against 
nature, imperfectly equipped in the struggle for existence, 
the victim of a sort of moral hydrocephalus, perished of 
actual dropsy, before he was quite forty years of age. 

Of the two Manzoni was the elder. He was born March 
7, 1785, and was the son of Pietro Manzoni and Giulia 
Beccaria, daughter of the famous economist. Beyond the 
bare gift of existence (not a dwpov adwpov as it proved in this 
case) Manzoni would seem to have owed very little to his 
father. The latter was a stern unbending martinet, possessing 
but few attractions for his lovely and accomplished wife, who 


in 1795 left him, and took up her abode with Carlo Imbonati, 
a friend of Parini, at Paris. Alessandro's preferences were 
all for her and his maternal grandfather, of which fact he 
afforded clear testimony by signing himself for a time Manzoni 
Beccaria. With regard to his education it is worth notice 
that one of his earliest teachers was Soave, author of the 
highly edifying Novelle Morali. Subsequently in the Collegio 
Longone he came under the influence of the Barnabites. 
In the light of his after-career these circumstances may 
well seem pre-destined. This at least may be said, that 
the writer of / Promessi Sposi, with his pure character and 
ecclesiastical bias, could scarcely have fallen on a more fitting 

Like others of his craft it is superfluous, though very 
apposite, to mention Scott Manzoni began with verse. His 
primitiae consisted of four cantos in terza rima, describing 
a vision, and the poem had for name // Trionfo della Liberia. 
It was modelled on the Bassvilliana and Mascheroniana of 
Vincenzo Monti, for whom, in the conclusion, 1 he speaks 
a boundless reverence : c io te seguo da lunge! The life of 
Manzoni is distinguished by its renunciations, and when he 
embraced romanticism, there were features in the Trionfo 
which did not commend themselves to him. And yet, in his 
mature judgment, it was not altogether bad. He spurned, 
indeed, and refused to father the swelling phrase and gar- 
nishing of false gods Peace and War and Equality but the 
soul of the poem, the puro e virile animo dowering it, this he 
continued to accept. His next essay was an idyll, entitled 
Adda, which he dedicated to Monti. It was written in 
blank verse, and with much finish. Both poems were com- 
posed when Manzoni was between fifteen and nineteen years 
of age. 


Imbonati having died, Alessandro joined his mother in 
Paris. Here he was introduced to the literary celebrities 
of the capital in the salon of Madame Condorcet, and his 
ideas received a certain French colouring which characterized 
them to the last. In order to console his mother, who felt 
her loss keenly, he indited verses A Carlo Imbonati. These 
verses are strongly reminiscent of Petrarch, and the sentiments 
which they express are conveyed in the familiar forms of a 
vision and a dialogue. Though of an elevated tone, they are 
without the note afterwards so distinctive of his art religious- 
ness. In 1809 he printed a mythological poem Urania, having 
for its motif 'the ministry of poetry as a civilizing and reform- 
ing agent. The critics of the day were not slow to belaud 
these attempts. Monti is said to have observed, in reference 
to Manzoni, ' I should like to end as this stripling has begun' ; 
while Foscolo did him the honour to insert some lines of the 
ode to Imbonati in his notes on / Sepolcri. 

In spite of this flattery the time was almost come for 
Manzoni to quit the ranks of the classicists. The mythology 
which entered so largely into their method he began to feel 
as irksome and unreal, to use his own expression, it was 
' absolutely devoid of interest'; and in a letter dated the 6th of 
September, 1809, ne wrote to Fouriel promising to make no 
more verses of the sort. Already, in 1808, he had married 
a perfect ideal of womanhood, the daughter of a rich Pro- 
testant banker ; and her conversion to Catholicism was soon 
followed by that of her husband, who had been to a great 
extent a freethinker. The gain to literature from this event 
was a series of sublime Inni in honour of the great Christian 
festivals LaResurrezione, II Nome di Maria, IlNatale, LaPas- 
sione, and lastly, born as it were out of due time, La Pentecoste. 
At the time of their first publication, which was the year 1815, 


the Inni were received rather coldly, but this indifference was 
replaced, as their merits were more clearly recognized, by 
a crescendo of admiration. His Osservazioni sulla Morale. 
Cattolica, written in answer to Sismondi and published in 
1819, is a torso which he wanted either the leisure or the 
inclination to complete. 

Meanwhile, as a romanticist, Manzoni had not been idle. 
Before essaying anything original, he conscientiously pre- 
pared himself for his mission by an elaborate study of 
mediaeval history, with the double object of appropriating its 
treasures and drinking in its spirit. The fruits of his labour 
were mainly these : // Conte di Carmagnola, a tragedy pub- 
lished in 1820, Adelchi, also a tragedy, published in 1822, 
and the celebrated historical novel, / Promessi Sposi, begun 
in 1821 and published by instalments between 1824 and 
1827. All three works were commended by Goethe, then in 
the plenitude of his fame. His judgment on I Promessi Sposi 
was especially gratifying. He said it was the perfection of 
its kind; and Sir Walter, with more reasons for being 
reserved, placed it in point of excellence before any of his 
own novels. It was generous estimate too generous perhaps 
for later criticism to endorse. A number of smaller works 
issued from Manzoni's pen at this time. Such were the 
revolutionary ode Cinque Maggio, written in 1821, but not 
published till 1848: a magnificent ode on the death of 
Napoleon, published in 1822 and adequately rendered by 
Goethe himself into German : and two letters, to Chauvet 
and the Marchese Cesare d'Azeglio respectively, on Roman- 
ticism. In 1827 he stayed for some months at Florence, 
where he was received with great distinction by the Grand- 
duke Leopold and formed the acquaintance of Leopardi. 
His visit, however, was dictated by a practical motive. Him- 


self a Lombard, he wished to give impartial consideration to 
the question of language which had been so long a subject 
of dispute to his countrymen, and to which henceforth his 
attention was chiefly directed. His ultimate conclusion was 
that in the interests of Italian literature the Tuscan dialect 
must prevail. In 1845 he addressed a letter on the subject 
to Giacinto Carrena, and in 1868 appeared a full and final 
exposition of his theory in his report DelV Unita della Lingua 
e de Mezzi di diffonderla, which he drew up at the request of 
the Minister, Emilio Broglio. 

In the sphere of creative art, Manzoni closed his career 
with / Promessi Sposi, which he re -published purged of 
Lombardisms in 1840. With it was printed an historical 
notice entitled Storia della Colonne Infame. As Manzoni' s 
great novel had been styled Storia Milanese Scoperta e Rifatta, 
many expected in the sequel a new work of fiction. Bitter, 
therefore, was the disappointment when it was found to be 
a dry recital, larded with original documents and interesting 
only to professed students. In 1833 Manzoni lost his wife, 
and in 1834 his eldest daughter Giulia. Although on the 
advice of his friends he married again, it is scarcely a fanciful 
thought that it was these dolorous bereavements that robbed 
him of his inspiration. He survived, however, for forty years, 
dying at last of inflammation of the brain in his native Milan. 

Having thus indicated the main divisions of Manzoni's 
life and the order of his works, it will be proper to examine 
the latter a little more in detail. With regard to his juvenile 
poems, it is unnecessary to add anything to what has already 
been said. The Inni present that union of grandeur and 
simplicity implied by the epithet ' sublime/ They are full of 
the loftiest symbolism. The idea, for instance, shadowed 
forth in // Natale is Christian democracy the equality of all 


in the sight of God ; and again in La Resurrezione he typifies 
the triumph of innocence over oppression. In his lyrics also 
Manzoni is the champion of a transcendental morality. In- 
justice and tyranny are revolting to him, being contraventions 
of the divine appointment whereby all men are brothers. In 
// Conte di Carmagnola the theme is internal discord issuing 
in thraldom, and A dele hi contains a fresh dissuasion against 
oppression, on the ground that the sins of the fathers are 
visited on the children. He also admonishes his countrymen 
that it is futile to look for deliverance by the foreigner. 

All or most of these ideas are pourtrayed over again on 
the larger canvas of I Promessi Sposi, with the added thought 
of Christian forgiveness. This novel is a splendid master- 
piece, remarkable both for nobility of sentiment and pro- 
fusion of detail. But it suffers from excessive ideality. 
It is in truth a kind of monochrome. The characters, 
where they are not stagey unrealities, are so many disguises of 
the author. The same accusation touches, of course, Milton 
and Byron. Even the Satan of Paradise Lost is but a fallen 
Milton, while Byron, in his various parts as Don Juan, Childe 
Harold, and the Giaour, is a very Proteus in verse. But there 
is yet another consideration. Manzoni is a greater Soave, and 
never for a moment loses sight of his moral. The result is 
seen in his character-drawing. Fra Cristoforo and the 
Cardinal Federigo Borromeo, we feel, are scarcely flesh and 
blood or, if they are, they are ' men with growing wings/ not 
likenesses of ourselves; while Don Rodrigo is so arrant a 
villain that it is to be hoped, for the credit of humanity, that 
he does not belong to the category of real existences. With 
the minor personages it is different. Some of tjiem are 
extremely life-like. Agnese and her gossip, in particular, are 
excellent portraiture. The story has been sometimes blamed 


for its digressions the account of the plague, the garden- 
scene, &c. Technically these may be faults, but he would 
be a bold critic who should propose to expunge descriptions 
wrought with such pleasing pre-Raffaelite distinctness. 

Singularly enough Manzoni himself, unmoved by the 
benediction of the great Goethe, fell foul of his own off- 
spring. Just as he had renounced Monti and mythology, so 
now he abjured the historical novel, which he pronounced an 
impossible hybrid confounding the properties of history and 
fiction. These, he maintained, could only co-exist in the 
popular legend. Whatever may be thought of Manzoni' s 
doctrine, he at least was loyal to it. / Promessi Sposi was 
the alpha and omega of his works of fiction. 

Although Manzoni was its most eminent exponent, he can- 
not with any truth be termed the apostle of Romanticism, even 
as regards Italy. The first to set it forth was Giovanni 
Berchet in his Lettera semiseria di Grisostomo sul Cacciatore 
Feroce e sulla Eleonora, published in 1816. Nor again was 
/ Promessi Sposi the first historical romance. That honour 
must be assigned to // Castello di Trezzo, a work of G. B. 
Bazzoni (1803-1850), who afterwards produced II Falco della 
Rupe, in which it is easy to trace the influence of Manzoni. 
An avowed imitation is La Monaca di Monza, being a 
continuation of / Promessi Sposi. This daring feat was 
attempted in the year 1828 by Giovanni Rosini (1776-1855), 
a professor in the University of Pisa, and it is undeniable that 
he achieved considerable success. The numerous editions 
of his work attest its popularity, for even to this day it has 
not ceased to be read. Rosini dealt with the artistic and 
literary side of Italian life, and his delineations display some 
skill. They are burdened, however, by a load of erudition 
and interspersed with wearisome digressions. 


One of the most worthy and accomplished of Manzoni's 
followers was his son-in-law, Massimo Zaparelli d'Azeglio 
(1798-1866). He was not only an author, but an artist and 
a soldier. He was also a prominent politician and promoted 
the liberation of Italy by his writings. His novels are La 
Disfida di Barletta ; Niccolo de' Lapi, treating of the siege of 
Florence and, more celebrated than either, Fanfulla. This 
last is a sort of popular Don Quixote. As a writer D'Azeglio 
is eminently temperate, and is at his best in description. He 
was not a profound thinker, nor, to judge from his writings, 
was he over-stocked with historical information, but his tales 
show good sense, imagination, and facility of execution. 

More dramatic as a writer and vehement as a man, 
Francesco Domenico Guerrazzi (1804-1873) exposed him- 
self to the utmost fury of the storm, endured imprisonment 
and exile, in defence of his cherished principles, democracy 
and Italian independence. He wrote a variety of works of 
fiction, of which the most notable are La Battaglia di Bene- 
ventO) published in 1827, L' Assedio di Ftrenze, which is his 
masterpiece, Veronica Cybo, Isabella Orsini^ and Beatrice 
Cenci. Guerrazzi is remarkable for the uncompromising 
tone, the ferocity of his writings. To tell the truth, this is 
considerably overdone, and the absence of softer effects is 
largely accountable for the oblivion which has so swiftly 
overtaken them. In addition to his novels Guerrazzi pro- 
duced several works of a nature more strictly historical : 
such as Pasquale Paoli, Francesco Ferrucio, Andrea Doria. 
His best composition // Secolo che muore was published after 
his death. 

All these writers, not excepting Manzoni, were of the 
liberal school, but conservatism also had its representatives 
in fiction notably Padre Antonio Bresciani (1708-1862), 


well known as a contributor to La Civilta Cattolica. Bres- 
ciani, it should be said, was a linguist and antiquary as well as 
a novelist. His best romance is L' Ebreo di Verona, which, 
though not very happily designed, is in high esteem for its 
vivid descriptions and the beauty of the style. It would be 
clearly impossible to mention all the writers who are to-day 
carrying on the traditions of Manzoni, and to single out one 
or two would be invidious. If, however, exception is to be 
made, it must be in favour of Edmondo de Amicis, a dis- 
tinguished contemporary litterateur, who was born in 1846 
and is still therefore in his prime. His fame depends prin- 
cipally on his sketches of military life, but he is equally at 
home in works of travel, history, biography, and the society 
novel. De Amicis' chief faculty is observation, but he is 
incurably superficial, and this grave fault endangers the per- 
manence of his reputation. It is noticeable that De Amicis 
as a young man was personally known to Manzoni, and the 
latter, recognizing his talents, gave him his warm support 
and encouragement. 

Romantic literature, however, was not confined to the prose 
novel. There was also the tale in verse and the romanza or 
romantic lyric, derived, like the novel, from the bosom of the 
middle ages and designed to illuminate and instruct. The 
whole of this literature was so clearly dominated by Manzoni 
that it has been named after him Manzonian ; and the 
leaders of the school, Giovanni Torti, Tommasso Grossi, 
/Giovanni Berchet, Samuele Biava, Silvio Pellico, were 
his intimate friends. 

Torti, the eldest of them (1788-1854), was more of a 
critic than a poet. He won his spurs by his Epistola sui 
Sepolcri del Foscolo e del Pindemonti, published in 1808, and 
ten years later appeared his Sermoni sulla Poesia, an ex- 


position and defence of romanticism. His poem Scetticismo 
e Fede is a metrical discourse on religion, not altogether un- 
like Wordsworth's Excursion. The central figure in it is an 
old peasant woman, to whom Christianity is all in all. Torti, 
though a good, was not a voluminous writer ; his verses were 
described by Manzoni as 'pochi e valenti' ' few and full of 

Gross! (1791-1853) was not only a friend of Manzoni, 
but actually resided for fifteen years in his house. A curious 
fact connected with him was his abdication of literature, when 
he had already achieved his success in it, and his adoption 
of the unambitious life of a notary. This conduct was not 
so irrational as might at first appear, being accompanied by 
the solid rewards of a well-filled coffer and domestic felicity. 
Here it will only be necessary to dwell on the earlier and 
more brilliant portion of his career. Grossi made his debut 
with La Prineide, a satire in the dialect of Milan, which got 
him into trouble with the Government. This was in the year 
1815. His next work was a romance, La Fuggitiva. 
originally in the same dialect, and afterwards transformed 
into literary Italian. In 1820 he published a tale, Ildegonda, 
relating to the times of the second Lombard league, and 
written in ottava rima. Another poem in fifteen cantos, 1 
Lombardi alia Prima Crociata, appeared in 1826. This was 
also in ottava rima, of which Grossi had a great mastery. 
Excellent as this poem is in the descriptive passages, Grossi 
unquestionably errs by conforming too closely to historical 
realities. Thus it is that the glamour with which Tasso 
invested his incomparably greater work is wholly wanting 
to / Lombardi. In 1834 Grossi gave to the world an 
historical novel, Marco Visconti, a manifest copy of / 
Promessi Sposi, and dedicated to Manzoni. Lastly, in 


1837, he produced a poetical romance Ulrica e Lida. 
Without entering upon details it may be observed that the 
burden in all these works is the same disappointment 
in love. 

Ildegonda had a rival in La Pia de Tolomei, the work of 
a Tuscan improvisator e, Bartolomeo Sestini. 

Berchet, already mentioned as the author of perhaps the 
first historical novel written in Italian, composed also odes 
and romances which earned for him the name of the Italian 
Tyrtaeus. Especially noticeable is the romance entitled 
/ Profughi di Parga, a record of English perfidy and Eng- 
lish generosity, and Fantasia, the most beautiful of all his 
compositions. It is a matter for regret that Berchet, despite 
his prolific imagination and virile thought, possessed such 
a feeble sense of poetic form. But for this he might have 
attained to considerably higher rank. He was a diligent 
translator of German and English poetry. 

Sanmele Biava (1792-1870) is best known by his 
Melodie Liriche, published in 1820, and his versions of the 
. Canticles and Psalms. 

Silvio Pellico (178^-1854) first sprang into notice 
through his tragedies, one of which, Francesca da Rimini, 
was translated by Byron ; but he gained a wider and more 
lasting reputation by Le Mie Prigioni, an autobiography. 
In 1820 he had been implicated in the doings of the 
Carbonari, and on the suppression of their conspiracy by 
the Austrians was committed to the fortress of Spielberg, 
where he lay for ten years. Le Mie Prigioni, which was 
published in 1832, is the transcript of his experiences. The 
work became popular and has been translated into all the 
languages of Europe, an honour which it well deserves. In 
1834 Pellico put forth a manual of moral philosophy, entitled 


Doveri degli Uomini. There is no real divorce between the 
two works, for, though the former is necessarily the more 
pictorial, yet both breathe a severe and lofty enthusiasm and 
are marked by simplicity and candour. The same qualities 
distinguish his Epistolario. In conjunction with Le Mie 
Prigioni should be read the Addizioni of Piero Maroncelli 
and Adryane's Me'moires dun Prisonnier. The Memorie e 
Lettere of Federico Confalonieri, which were published in 
1891, are probably the latest addition to this class of writing, 
the author being one of those singularly pure and heroic 
characters which adorn an otherwise gloomy page of Italian 

Gaol literature, however, has only an incidental connexion 
with romance. To conclude what is fitting to be said 
on the latter subject : Cesare Cantu, who was born in 
1805 and still survives in a revered old age, published in 
1826 a tale in ottava rima, consisting of four cantos, and 
entitled Algiso o la Lega Lombarda. In 1831 he produced 
a commentary on / Promessi Sposi, which he called La 
Lombardia ml Secolo XVII. Two years later interference 
in politics led to his incarceration. During his twelve 
months' seclusion he worked at an historical novel, Margherita 
Pusterla, which recalls in many of its particulars / Promessi 
Sposi and contains in Bonvicino a replica as it were of Padre 
Cristoforo. Owing to difficulties with the Austrian censor 
who perceived its application, it was five years before the tale 
could emerge from obscurity. Finally, Giulio Carcano 
(1812-1884) wrote some admirable stories (of \vhichAngiota 
Maria is the most popular), sundry poems, and the best 
translation of Shakespeare. 

Giacomo Leopardi, in all but genius the very antilogy 
of Manzoni, was born in the year 1798, at Recanati. 


His father Monaldo, a gentleman of the old school, 
was a man of talent and culture, writing, in addition to 
Dialogetti on current politics, an autobiography, which has 
since been re-published. The eldest of the family, Giacomo, 
a sickly precocious boy, spent most of his time in the 
seclusion of a well-stocked library. This habit of poring 
over books, acting on a feeble constitution, made him 
round-shouldered, indeed, a humpback: and when in after 
years he mingled in society and realized the full extent 
of his deformity, the thought of it ate into his mind like 
a cancer, poisoning the springs of happiness and making his 
domestication in the world impossible. In the chorus of 
universal nature he was 'a jarring and a dissonant thing/ 
and his singing was an everlasting Woe ! True, there was 
pessimism before Leopardi. The sad undertone which 
pervades the glorious poesy of Greece, with its mournful 
insistence on the brief and trivial life of man, his fading joys 
and the growing shadow of a stern resistless Fate what is 
this but pessimism ? And in Italy Foscolo had already 
defined the anguish of a soul intense in its aspirations, but 
hidebound by circumstance. Indeed, the flower of the race 
has a constant temptation to repine in the disproportion of 
life to genius. It has been reserved, however, for the German 
Schopenhauer to condense these humours into a philosophy. 
As for Leopardi, his distinction, his dire necessity, is to 
have symbolized, to have lived pessimism. He commenced 
author in 1812 with a tragedy in three acts, to which he gave 
the name of Pompeo in Egitto. This was followed in 1814 
by a little treatise Deglt Errori popolari degli Antichi, and 
after an interval of two more years he wrote a poem in 
terza rima, bearing the significant title Appressamento della 
Morte. It is noticeable that up to this time he was still 

M 2 


accessible to the consolations of religion, though tasting in 
anticipation all the bitterness of a premature death and the 
attendant loss of fame. Leopardi' s Italian studies especially 
the Trionfi of Petrarch and the Divine Comedy manifest 
themselves not only in the form of the poem, but in its tone 
and substance. His angel appears to warn him of his 
approaching end, and the figures of Love, Error, Avarice, 
War, Oblivion, typify the unworth of the world ; while in the 
background a company of blessed spirits, David and Alighieri, 
Petrarch and Tasso, Christ and Mary, cheer him with the 
hope of an everlasting to be. 

Towards the close of the same year 1816 in which this 
threnody was composed, Leopardi met with a misfortune, 
which left a painful impression and confirmed him in the 
melancholy to which he was naturally prone. He fell in 
love with Giovanna Cassi, a cousin of his father, but 
lacked courage for an avowal. Judging from his subsequent 
failures, it is unlikely that he would have succeeded, and in 
that respect his silence was immaterial. The pang, however, 
remained, and his feelings as influenced by this event are 
touchingly portrayed in two elegies, in one of which he 
describes himself in concentric phrase as a pianger nato. 
Leopardi, like all poets, was very susceptible to feminine 
charm, but invariably, owing to his personal defects, his 
affections went unrequited, than which it is hard to conceive 
a more cruel dispensation. In these his early days he 
used to watch through his window the peasant girls in the 
neighbouring houses, and rave about them in amatory verse, 
but there the thing ended ; and in later life he succumbed to 
the fascinations of several ladies, whose identity is in no 

Meanwhile Leopardi was pursuing a brilliant career in 


letters. He contributed to the Spettatore, a Milan magazine, 
some essays in translation, a hymn to Neptune he professed 
to have rendered from the Greek, and two original Greek 
odes, which, Chatterton-like, he put off on Anacreon. In 
1818 he published two canzonets, Italia and Monumento di 
Dante in Firenze. This he dedicated to Monti, who, in 
reply, expressed his joy at ' seeing a new star arise in our 
Parnassus/ Like Goethe in similar case, Leopardi burned 
to escape from the narrow orbit of municipal Recanati. 
Beyond the mountains he thought he could breathe freely, 
and fulfil the high destiny to which he felt himself called. 
At length the opportunity came. He found himself in the 
gay society of Rome. But here also he was out of his 
element, being disgusted with the frivolous people who 
crowded the assemblies. As some compensation he made 
the acquaintance of Niebuhr and other distinguished 
foreigners, by whom his great abilities were duly appreciated. 
In 1824 he returned to his native place, and published a 
collected edition of his poems, together with a dissertation in 
which he defended himself from anticipated criticisms on the 
score of language. His subsequent efforts were a Martirio 
dei Santi Padri in the style of the Trecentists ; an Interpreta- 
zione delle Rime del Petrarca, in which he confines himself to 
the humble task of expounding the significance of the words ; 
a portion of his Operette Morali; a Crestomazia Italiana 
compiled for the practical object of the improvement of 
style ; and a new edition of his Canti, dedicated to his friends 
in Tuscany. 

Looking at the matter from the common standpoint, 
Leopardi had been deplorably unsuccessful. What with his 
ill-health and blind devotion to his studies, he had shown 
small aptitude for taking care of himself, and had been 


driven on more than one occasion to seek the shelter of the 
paternal roof. During the last four years of his life, however, 
Leopardi was destined to see some gleams of sunshine. In 
1830, when at Florence, he had come to know Antonio 
Ranieri, a Neapolitan scholar, who, compassionating his 
misery, took him into his home. There he received every 
attention from Ranieri himself and his amiable sister, and 
there, in the arms of his friend, the unfortunate poet expired 
on the 1 4th of June, 1837, having added to his list two last 
works, Pensieri and Paralipomeni alia Batracomiomachia. 

Although Leopardi himself always strenuously denied that 
his opinions were formed from personal considerations, this 
is scarcely the view of his biographers. The full horror of 
the case did not burst upon him at once. In his lyrical 
poems especially it is possible to mark three stages of 
ever-deepening gloom. In his earliest compositions, whilst 
recognizing the unsatisfactoriness of things, he is disposed to 
attribute it to accident, to the degeneracy of the human race, 
the frauds of civilization, &c. Then, advancing a step, he 
fixes the blame on human nature itself, which is so con- 
stituted that it can never attain happiness. In the last place 
he paints in terrible colours Woe itself, and hurls bitter gibes 
against God and Nature as the authors of it. As has been 
observed, pessimism with Leopardi is a habit of mind, a 
sentiment, not an ordered system of thought. Even in his 
prose works, his Operette Morali, he shows himself no dry 
philosopher. The forms which he employs vary from dia- 
logue to myth, from allegory to satire, but he is always 
terribly in earnest. He opens every little scratch, and probes, 
if he does not poison, the wounds of suffering humanity. 
Yet in all this he is the reverse of a fanatic. He argues 
dexterously, in the finest of literary styles. 


Leopard! is, indeed, the first modern Italian classic : no 
such prose as his has been written since the cinquecento. 
As a thinker, he may be named with Vico and Bruno. 

Leopardi's works are so numerous that they cannot here be 
studied in detail. One of the most notable is his Paralipo- 
meni alia Batracomiomachia^ a poem consisting of eight cantos 
in ottava rima. As the name implies it is based on the old 
pseudo-Homeric poem, of which Leopardi seems to have been 
especially fond, and of which he had already produced two 
versions in sextains. The work is a political satire dealing 
with events in Naples between 1815 and 1821 ; and Leopardi, 
as usual, is a very Ishmael, attacking both the reactionaries 
and the liberals, the latter indeed with peculiar keenness, 
because of their foolish confidence. Lastly, Leopardi was 
distinguished as a translator. Besides his verse renderings, 
which were chiefly juvenile essays, he did into Italian parts 
of Xenophon, Isocrates, Epictetus, &c. ; and his correspon- 
dence, though often necessarily sad, is full of interest for 
those who would know the man. 



FROM 1830 to 1860 the general characteristic of Italian 
literature, however diversified in other respects, was its sub- 
servience to politics. A recent writer has classified the pro- 
ductions of the age on this basis, pointing out the effects 
of the various forms of government Austrian rule, Papal 
influence, and Bourbon tyranny on authorship in their 
respective spheres. Here it will be convenient to adopt 
another method of classification, and to regard the various 
works from a purely literary point of view. Romance, 
radiating from Milan, has been already dealt with. Satire 
and dialectal poetry had also its votaries. Of these the 
most famous, at any rate at Milan, was Carlo Porta (1776- 
"1821), a friend of Manzoni. His example was followed 
by a Roman, Giuseppe Giaocchino Belli (1791-1863), 
who, admirable alike for his wit and command of dialect, 
directed his keen and strongly sped shafts at the Papacy ; 
while Angelo Brofierio, an advocate and the author of 
dramatic and historical compositions, won a wide popularity . 
by his Stella del Piemount, written in the speech of that 
province. In Tuscany Antonio Guadagnoli (1798-1858), 
a native of Arezzo, indulged his wit at the expense of the 
great ones of the earth, and his humour, being without 
malice, was much appreciated. 


Guadagnoli, however, was completely cast into the shade 
by that most versatile and prolific of authors, Giuseppe Giusti 
(1809-1850). After, an elaborate education, of which the 
last years were passed in the University of Pisa, Giusti 
threw himself into literature, commencing with GuiglioUina 
a Vapore, which was levelled at the bigot Duke of Modena. 
This was followed, on the occasion of the death of Francis I 
of Austria, by Dies Irae, and afterwards by Lo Stivale, 
a farcical history of Italy under the similitude of a boot. A 
succession of works of the most various character provided 
him with occupation during the remainder of his compara- 
tively short life. In Re Travicello he pilloried Leopold II ; 
in Terra de Morti, wielding a two-edged sword, he struck, on 
the one hand, at Lamartine for his insolent allusions to Italy ; 
on the other, at his own countrymen for their feebleness 
and corruption. Preterito piu che Perfetto del Verbo Pensare, 
II Balk, and Brindisi are writings pointed especially at the 
aristocracy, those effete and pleasure-loving nobles, whose 
tameness and submission riveted the yoke of foreign 

But Giusti had no class prejudices. Each section of the 
community in its turn was made to wince under his powerful 
lash. The tradesfolk with their base covetous propensities 
were badly hit in La Vestizione and La Scritta. In other 
works he took up his parable against time-servers and place- 
hunters and political quacks. On the accession of Pius IX 
to the chair of St. Peter, Giusti, conceiving high hopes for 
the future of his country, gave expression to his feelings in 
some exquisite odes Sant' Ambrogio, Guerra, Rassegnazione. 
In Discorsi che corrono^ Storia Contemporanea^ Congresso dei 
Birri, he makes war on the reactionary party ; in Spettri del 
4 Settembre and Instruzioni ad un Emissario is revealed his 


distrust of demagogues and the wily supporters of Austria. 
His Ode a Leopoldo is a recantation, wherein he commends 
the Emperor for his liberalism. Liberalism, however, as 
Giusti discovered, has its weak as well as its strong side, and 
his sonnets, I Piu tirano i Meno, Maggiorita, Arruffapopoli, 
testify to his dislike of the noisy and inexperienced politi- 
cians deputies, journalists, and others who were springing 
into notoriety. With all his passion for liberty Giusti had no 
love for republicanism, and his avoidance of extremes was 
productive of no small inconvenience to him. But it was 
not fated that he should live long in a world which, for 
him, was evidently out of joint. He died, after a protracted 
illness, from the bursting of a blood-vessel, March 31, 1850. 

Giusti did not belong to any particular school. He held 
equally aloof from a cold forbidding classicism and a reck- 
lessly innovating romanticism. He borrowed some hints 
from Beranger, but the development of his ideas appears to 
have proceeded from factors in his own experience. Of 
this a good account is given in L'Origine degli Scherzi, from 
which it would seem that he began life as a follower of 
Petrarch, belando d' amore ; but he suffered a rude awakening 
from these dreams when he perceived that the world was 
full ofpagk'acctj men of straw, superficial and glozing hypo- 
crites. His first sensation was that of horror ; afterwards 
' wrath, sorrow, amazement was dissolved in laughter/ From 
what he says however elsewhere, the laughter was only 
apparent, while the grief which it served to mask was genuine 
and sincere. Giusti was anything but a vulgar satirist. As 
a rule he carefully eschewed personalities ; if it happened to 
him to be overtaken by a fault, he repented in sackcloth and 
ashes. The lyrical element in his being, though under some 
restraint, finds expression in such odes as AW Arnica lontana^ 


Fiducia in Dzo, Ad una Giovinetta, &c. Giusti was also 
interested in philology, and made a collection of Tuscan 
proverbs ; and he was an enthusiastic lover of Virgil, Dante, 
and Parini. 

The period comprised between 1830 and 1870 was ex- 
ceedingly prolific in poets, of whom little more than a bare 
'list can be here given. One school, whose headquarters 
were in Umbria, Romagna, and Le Marche, followed the 
lead of Leopardi in regard to purity of language and 
elegance of style. Giovanni Marchetti (1790-1852) is 
celebrated as the author of Una Notte di Dante, a short but 
exquisite poem in terza rima, describing a famous episode, 
Dante's arrival at the monastery of Fonte Avellana. 
Terenzio Mamiani (1799-1885) composed Inni Sacri, 
treating of the lives of the saints and written in blank verse ; 
and Idittj\ a medley of stories and sketches, in various 
metres. Another disciple of Leopardi was Agostino Cagnoli 
of Reggio d' Emilia (1810-1846). In his Scala di Vita, 
Ii. Grisostomo Ferrucci (1797-1877) sought to rival the 
grandeurs of the Divine Comedy. Being such an ambitious 
attempt it was but natural that there should be differences 
of opinion respecting it, but the poem is now in a fair way 
to be forgotten. A kinswoman of Grisostomo, Caterina 
Franeeschi Ferrucci (1803-1887), was an ardent educa- 
tionalist and a poetess of no mean order. Belonging to the 
Roman branch of the classical school were the brothers 
Giambattista and Giuseppe Maccari (1832-1868), idyllists, 
and Francesco Massi, author of lyrical, satirical, and epic 
verses. Midway between the classicists and romanticists 
must be placed Antonio Peretti of Castelnuovo (1815 
1858), at first court-poet of the Duke of Modena, and then 
exile for love of country. At Camposanto, near Modena, 


was born towards the end of the last century Pietro Gian- 
none, the poet of the Carboneria and a conspirator of the 
deepest dye. His chief works were La Repubblica, which he 
dedicated to Giusti and L* Esule^ wherein he sets forth the 
manners and morals of his sect. He died in 1872. 

The most notable poet in southern Italy was Gabriele 
Kossetti (1783-1854), who, unable to accept the condi- 
tions on which alone life could be lived at Naples, removed 
to London, where he held a chair of Italian Literature. In 
his adopted country he published political and other verses, 
the greatest of his compositions being Iddio e I'Uomo, II 
Veggente in Solitudine and L'Arpa Evangelica. The last 
was written as a solace for. his blindness. . Rossetti had 
strong notions about the Papacy, and wrote several treatises, 
in which he laboured to prove that Dante and all the poets 
of the middle ages hated Rome, and that their writings 
are so many adumbrations of this hate. To-day Rossetti 
is remembered more for his noble personal life than 
his poetical achievements, but the name has been ren- 
dered imperishable by the triumphs of his richly gifted 
children. The neighbourhood of Trent produced a notable 
poet styled by Carducci ' the last of the troubadours ' in 
Giovanni Prati (1815-1884), who, at the age of twenty-six, 
drew attention to himself by his Ermenegarda, a tale in 
blank verse. His writings consist mainly of ballads, religious 
verses, patriotic and satirico-allegorical compositions, and 
a philosophic poem. The last is entitled Armanda, and its 
subject is scepticism, which it confutes. Finally he published 
two volumes, hide and Psyche, embodying in a series of lyrics, 
as the result of introspection, the history of his own soul. 

The most eminent poets of the Venetian school were 
Piccolo Tommaseo of Sebenico (1802-1874), Francesco 


dall' Ongaro (1808-1874), Aleardo Aleardi of Verona 
(1812-1878), and Giacomo Zanella (1820-1888). Tom- 
inaseo was at once philosopher, critic, and philologer; 
and he has left behind him works illustrative of all his 
studies. As might be expected in the case of so many- 
sided a writer, his verse is not remarkable for its bulk. 
What there is of it is romantic in spirit and classical in style. 
Francesco dall' Ongaro was professor of dramatic literature 
at Florence and Naples. The most popular of his works is 
/ Stornelli. Aleardo Aleardi is not one of the elect whose 
writings are destined to be immortal, but 77 Monte Circello, 
Le Prime Storie, Lettere a Maria, and / Sette Soldati were 
once widely read. Giacomo Zanella, a priest, was a minor 
Leopardi. His verses bear witness to a conflict between 
faith and reason, revelation and science, but the issue in his 
case was the triumph of religion. Zanella's forte was lyrical 
poetry, and his best odes will remain landmarks in the art. 
He showed considerable talent in other directions also, and 
was a specially good translator of English poetry. 

In Tuscany Luigi Venturi (1812-1890) gave Italian 
renderings of the Hymns of the Church ; and his master- 
piece EUomo is a set of poems drawn from Biblical narra- 
tives and designed to illustrate the inequalities of fortune. 
The greatest of Italian lyrists now living is, undoubtedly, 
Giosue Carducci, born in 1836 at Valdicastello near Pietra- 
santa. In the preface to his Poesie he gives a sketch of 
himself down to the year 1871 : ' I set out, and I congratulate 
myself upon it, with Alfieri, Parini, Monti, Foscolo, Leopardi \ 
through them and with them I went back to the ancients, 
held converse with Dante and Petrarch; and on them I still 
fixed my eye, even in my travels through foreign literature/ 
And he goes on to say, ' In Juvenilia I am the squire of the 


classics; in Levia Grama I keep watch under arms; in 
Decennali, after the first strokes of my lance which were 
a little conventional and uncertain, I enter upon adventures 
entirely at my own risk and peril/ After 1871 Carducci 
appeared in a new character, as a satirist ; and in his latest 
manner -poesia barbara he calls it he bids adieu to 
rhyme, and takes for pattern the elegy and ode of the ancients. 
Carducci is strong also in the field of criticism. He has 
written and published elaborate studies of Italian Literature 
in its varied phases ; and his influence has been far-reaching. 
English poetry, especially as incarnate in Mr. Swinburne, is 
signally indebted to Carducci. 

In tragedy the greatest name in the first half of the 
century is Giovambattista iNiccolini (1782-1861). He was 
born of Florentine parents at I Bagni di Re, and at the age 
of one-and-twenty formed a close friendship with Ugo 
Foscolo, to whom he dedicated La Chioma di Berenice. His 
earliest essays consisted in free translations of Aeschylus ; 
and Matilde and Beatrice Cenci were inspired by his English 
studies. Niccolini was one of those who will not allow that 
there is any generic difference between the ancient and 
modern drama; and he sought to show how the charac- 
teristics of both might be combined. Almost all his works 
have a political scope. The real subject of Nabucco is the 
fall of Napoleon, while Giovanni da Procida and Ludovico 
Sforza are intended to subserve the unity and independence 
of Italy. Arnaldo da Brescia is the most effective blow ever 
dealt at the Papacy by an Italian pen. Niccolini, without 
departing from his classical models, improved on them by 
the variety of his treatment and his fidelity to historic truth. 
Yet he is by no means perfect. He tends to be lyrical, 
declamatory; and his knowledge of the human heart is 


decidedly circumscribed. In addition to his dramas Niccolini 
wrote a long series of poems, and he was the author of two 
not very successful histories, Vespro Siciliano and Storia della 
Casa Sueva in Italia. Apart from Niccolini, tragedy at this 
time can boast of few names of any importance. Fran- 
cesco Benedetti (1785-1 821) continued the tradition of Alfieri, 
basing his plays for the most part on Roman history. Carlo 
Marenco (1800-1846), on the other hand, resorted to the 
middle ages for his subjects, which he dealt with in 
a romantic spirit. His best dramas are Buondelmonte, La Pia 
and Arnaldo da Brescia. Pietro Cossa (1830-1881), a native 
of Rome, showed considerable skill in portraying historic 
personages, such as they may be conceived to have been. 
His Messalina is a notable success in this way, but his 
writings distinctly lack form. 

In comedy Goldoni's influence continued to prevail ; and 
Giovanni Giraud, a Roman (1776-1834), hit the public 
taste very palpably with his Don Desiderio and Aio neU 
Imbarazzo. Alberto Wota of Torino (1775-1847) was also 
a favourite in his day, but his plays are never likely to be 
revived, as they are too general and deficient in warmth and 
colour. Tommaso Gherardi (1815-1881) wrote numerous 
comedies which are alike spirited and natural : // Regno 
Adelaide, II Padiglione delle Mortelle, II Vero JB las one, &c. 
Vincenzo Martini was the author of La Donna di 40 Anni 
and // Cavaliere d 1 Industria ; and in the Florentine dialect 
were written the very witty Ciane of the Abate G. B. Zannoni 
(1774-1832). No one perhaps possessed a fuller acquaint- 
ance with historical subjects than Paolo Giacometti (1817- 
1882) ; and he also wrote plays. The latter are chiefly of the 
class known as a tesi, composed, that is to say, for a special 
purpose, the discussion of a social problem or the enforcement 


of a moral: and the situations are in general rather forced. 
Nevertheless some of his comedies (// Poeta e la Balleria, for 
instance) are still esteemed. The most conspicuous figure, 
however, in comedy during the last half-century is, beyond 
question, Paolo Ferrari of Modena (1822-1889). ^ e 
devoted himself partly to historic comedy, of which Goldoni 
e le sue Sedici Commedie and Parini e la Satira may be taken 
as samples ; partly to the commedia a tesi, in which he was 
fairly successful, depicting with tact and knowledge the 
foibles of modern society, but over-loading his pages with 
reflexions, and his countrymen say that his dialogue is not 
superfine Italian. After a period of neglect the melodrama 
was raised from its low estate -as a mere adjunct of the music 
to something resembling its former glory by Felice Romani 
of Genoa (1788-1865), a friend of Bellini and Bonizetti. 

Turning to prose authors other than writers of fiction, the 
most illustrious in the first half of the century is the Conte 
Cesare Balbo (1789-1853). Although he experimented 
with various kinds of writing, tales and tragedy and moral 
philosophy, his chief success was in history and biography. 
His Storia d Italia, which professes to be a popularization of 
Muratori, appeared in 1830. In 1839 he published a very 
full life of Dante, which, in spite of all that has been since 
written on the subject, has never been superseded. His 
Meditazioni Storiche deal with the providential aspect of 
history, while his Sommario delta Storia d' Italia is inspired by 
a political motive. His Speranze d Italia is exclusively 
political, and among other hopes which the author enter- 
tained and the Crimean war was destined to disappoint, was 
the fall of Turkey, which, he thought, would afford scope 
for Austrian ambition in the East. Nevertheless, Italian 
independence may in a sense be traced to Turkey's decrepi- 


tude, through the accession of Sardinia to the Anglo-French 

Another historian is Cesare Cantft, whose earliest effort 
was a Storia di Como, published in 1829. In 1836 appeared 
the first instalment of his monumental Storia Universale. 
Other writings of his are Storia de* Cento Anni and E Abate 
Parini e la Lombardia. Cantu is not immaculate as to 
style, and he has been convicted of numerous errors in 
matters of fact. Both faults, however, may be regarded as 
venial in view of the hugeness of the canvas he has under- 
taken to fill. Michele Amari of Palermo (1806-1889) wrote 
a Storia del Vespro Siciliano, controverting the popular belief 
that the famous Vespers were the result of a conspiracy ; and 
a Storia dei Mussulmani in Sicilia, a record of four centuries 
of Arab rule. Amari's writings are a happy blend of the old 
and new methods of treating history at once artistic and 
scientific, dignified and exact. Gino Capponi of Florence 
(1792-1876), great as a writer, was even greater as a man. 
A liberal and a Catholic, loyal, yet patriotic, he threw his 
influence invariably into the scale of right. His chief work 
is his Storia della Repubblica di Firenze, composed when he 
was old and blind. This history took him twenty years to 
complete, and, though of a popular character, met with the 
approval of the critics, except in regard to the opening 
chapters, which were deemed scanty and inadequate. 

Luigi Carlo Farini (1812-1866) was the author of a 
Storia della Stato Romano dall' Anno 1814 al 1850, and he 
published two volumes of a Storia a" Italia in continuation of 
that of Botta. Farini, it should be said, sympathized with the 
aims of Pius IX, and sternly set his face against the prevalent 
feature of the age, a rabid demagogism in politics. His 
literary style is excellent. A contemporary of Farini, 


Ferdinando Hanalli, born in 1823 and still living, has 
traversed the same ground in his Storia Italiana dal 1846 al 
1852 ; while in JUItaha dopo il 1859 ne nas sketched a more 
recent chapter of his country's history. The principles upon 
which he proceeds are explained and enforced in his Lezioni 
di Storia and Ammaestramenti di Letter atur a. They consist 
in adhesion to the old view of history as the handmaid of 
politics and contempt for romanticist innovation. The follow- 
ing writers also deserve mention : Luigi Ciampolini, author 
of a Storia del Risorgimento di Grecia ; Giuseppe Manno, 
author of a very excellent Storia della Sardegna ; Luigi 
Cibrario (1802-1870), a distinguished critic, who, besides his 
Economia Politica nel Medio-Evo, wrote two histories, that of 
the city of Turin and the monarchy of Savoy ; and Ercole di 
Voghera, whose Storia delle Campagnie di Ventura and 
Storia della Monarchia Piedmontese are deservedly esteemed. 
Atto Vannucci (1810-1883) is remembered for his Storia 
dell Italia Antica, and he was the writer of a popular work 
I Martiri della Independenm Italiana. The best known names 
in ecclesiastical history are those of Luigi Tosti of Naples, 
who was born in 1811, and Padre Alfonso Capecelatro, 
born in 1824, at Marseilles. Finally, Pasquale Villari 
(b. 1827) has written two valuable monographs: Storia di 
Girolamo Savonarola and Niccolb Machiavelli e i suoi tempi. 

The age has produced a whole crop of memoirs of which 
it will, be sufficient to mention Marco Minghetti's Miei 
Ricordi ; and there have been numerous works dealing with 
Italian literature as a whole, and with special topics such as 
Dante, which it would be irrelevant to discuss here. The 
same remark will apply to technological works and treatises 
on philosophy. It will be fitting to conclude this sketch by 
a reference to Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872), the hero of 


giovane Italia, whose writings influenced so powerfully the 
destinies of his native land. Patriot however as he was, his 
aims far outreached the limits of the peninsula, and he is 
a most eloquent apostle of the humanitarian idea. Dreaming 
of a universal republic whose centre should be Rome, he 
figured the future regime almost as a theocracy and adopted 
as his watchword the chivalrous phrase Dio e popolo. Hating 
utilitarianism, he exalted the conception of duty ; indeed, the 
notion of conduct set forth in his tractate Doveri is strict, 
even to austerity. Individualism in art and life was detestable 
to him, and against it he ever waged a crusade. All his 
criticisms are based on these persuasions, which permeate 
and underlie his discussion of matters so rich in interest as 
Dante's Love of Country, Romance, Botta, and the i D hilosophy 
of Music, and Fate in Tragedy. 

N 2 


Page 59, line $>for Guiccardini read Guicciardini 
87, 2 4, for Pecchi read Cecchi 


Achillini Claudio, 100. 
Adimari Ludovico, 102. 
Adrian! Giovambattista, 60. 
Alamanni Luigi, 76, 87, 97. 
Aleardi Aleardo, 173. 
Alfieri Vittorio, 43, 132, 173. 
Algarotti Francesco, 122. 
Alighieri Dante, i, 16-30. 
Amari Michele, 177. 
Ammirato Scipione, 60. 
Andreini Giambattista, 104. 
Antonio da Pistoia, 83. 
Aretino Leonardo, 57. 

Pietro, 65, 85, 88. 
Argenti (degli) Agostino, 91. 
Ariosto Ludovico, 50, 70, 86, 96, 


Balbo Cesare, 176. 
Baldi Bernardino, 97. 
Bandello Matteo, 65. 
Baretti Giuseppe, 124. 
Bartoli Danielle, 109. 
Bazzoni G. Battista, 157. 
Beccari Agostino, 91. 
Belcari Feo, 45. 

Belli Giuseppe Giaocchino, 168. 
Bembo Pietro, 38, 67, 93. 
Benedetti Francesco, 175. 
Bentivoglio Ercole, 96. 

Guido, 1 08. 
Benvenuto da Imola, 17. 

Berchet Giovanni, 157, 159, 161. 
Berni Francesco, 50, 74, 95. 
Bertola Aurelio, 129. 
Bettinelli Saverio, 123, 145. 
Bianchini Francesco, 1 1 3. 
Biava Samuel e, 159, 161. 
Boccaccio Giovanni, 37. 
Boiardo Matteo, 70, 83 
Bonfadio Jacopo, 68. 
Borghini Vincenzo, 89. 
Botta Carlo, 143. 
Bracciolini Poggio, 57, 64. 
Bresciani Antonio, 158. 
Brofferio Angelo, 168. 
Buonagiunta di Lucca, 8. 
Buonarotti Michelangelo, 94. 
- The Younger, 104. 

Cagnoli Agostino, 171. 
Cantu Cesare, 162, 176. 
Capecelatro Alfonso, 178. 
Caporali Cesare, 95. 
Capponi Gino, 177. 
Carcano Giulio, 162. 
Carducci Giosue, 173. 
Caro Annibale, 62, 90. 
Casa (della) Giovanni, 67, 95. 
Castellani Castellano, 45. 
Castelvetro Ludovico, 62. 
Casti Giambattista, 129. 
Castiglione Baldassare, 67, 91. 
Cavalcanti Guido, 9, 10. 

I 82 


Cecchi Giovan Maria, 87. 
Cellini Benvenuto, 69. 
Cesari Antonio, 146. 
Cesarotti Melchiorre, 125. 
Chiabrera Gabriello, 100. 
Chiari Pietro, 118. 
Ciampoli, 101, 109. 
Ciampolini Luigi, 178. 
Cibrario Luigi, 178. 
Cicognini Andrea, 117. 

Jacopo, 117. 
Cino da Pistoia, n. 
Ciullo di Alcamo, 6. 
Clasio, 129. 
Colletta Pietro, 144. 
Colonna Egidio, 11. 

Vittoria, 94. 

Colonne (dalle) Guido, 6, 7. 

Odo, 6. 

Compagni Dino, 15. 

Confalonieri Federico, 162. 

Conti Antonio, 132. 

Corio Bernardino, 57. 

Cossa Pietro, 175. 

Costanzo (di) Angelo, 60, 109. 

Crescimbeni Giovan Maria, 109. 

Da Bibbiena Cardinal, 87. 
Dall' Ongaro Francesco, 173. 
Dante da Majano, 6, 7, 19. 
Davanzati Bernardo, 01. 
Davila Arrigo Caterino, 108. 
D'Azeglio Massimo Zap., 158. 
De Amicis Edmondo, 159. 
Decio, 85. 
Denina Carlo, 142. 
De Rossi Bastiano, 63. 
Domenichi, 50. 
Doni Giambattista, 109. 

Ercole di Voghera, 178. 
Erizzo Sebastiano, 66. 

Fabrizio di Bologna, 7. 
Fagiuoli Giovambattista, 118. 
Fantoni Giovanni, 150. 
Farini Luigi Carlo, 177. 

Fenaruolo Girolamo, 97 

Ferrari Paolo, 175. 

Ferrucci Franceschi Caterina, 171. 

L. Grisostomo, 171. 
Ficino Marsilio, 67. 

Filicaja (da) Vincenzo, 101, 102. 
Fiorentino Ser Giovanni, 41. 
Firenzuola Angelo, 66. 
Folcacchiero di Siena, 7. 
Fontanini, 112. 
Foscolo Ugo, 147, 173. 
Francesco da Barberino, 35, 
Franco Niccolo, 93. 
Frederick II, 6. 
Frezzi Federigo, 29. 
Frugoni Carlo Inriocenzo, no. 

Galeazzo di Tarsia, 93. 
Gambara Veronica, 94. 
Gelli Giovambattista, 66. 
Gherardi Tommaso, 175. 
Giacometti Paolo, 175. 
Giamboni Bono, 12, 15. 
Giannone Pietro. 14. 

(modern), 171. 
Gigli Girolamo, 118. 

Giraldi Gregorio Cinzto, 66, 85, 


Giraldo di Castello, 7. 
Giraud Giovanni, 175. 
Giusti Giuseppe, 169. 
Goldoni Carlo, 43, 119, 131. 
Gozzi Carlo, 120. 

Gaspare, 123. 
Gravina Vincenzo, in, 112. 
Grazzini (Lasca), 61, 64, 88. 
Grossi Tommaso, 160. 
Guadagnoli Antonio, 168. 
Guarini Giambattista, 92. 
Guerrazzi Franc. Dom., 158. 
Guicciardini Francesco, 58. 
Guidi Alessandro, 101, 109. 
Guinicelli Guido, 7. 
Guittone d' Arezzo, 1 3. 

Jacopo da Lentini, 6. 
Jacopone (fra) da Todi, 13. 



Latino Brunette, 12, 15, 17, 20. 
Lemene (di) Francesco, no. 
Leonio, 109. 
Leopard! Giacomo, 151, 162-167. 


Monaldo, 162. 
Lippi Lorenzo, 52, 107. 
Lollio Alberto, 91. 

Niccolini Giovambattista, 174. 
Niccolo da Correggio, 83. 
Noffo di Oltrarno, 7. 
Nota Alberto, 175. 

Olivier! , 77. 

Onesto di Bologna, 7. 

Orsini Isabella, 63. 

Maccari Giambattista, 171. 

Giuseppe, 171. 
Machiavelli Niccolo, 55, 87, 88. 
Maffei Scipione, 113, 130. 
Malespini Giacchetto, 15. 

Ricordano, 14. 
Malvolti, 57. 
Mamiani Terenzio, 171. 
Manfredi Muzio, 85. 
Manno Giuseppe, 178. 
Manzoni Alessandro, 151-157. 
Marchetti I iovanni, 171. 
Marenco Carlo, 175. 

Marini Giambattista, 99. 
Martello Pier Jacopo, 130. 
Martini Vincenzo, 175. 
Massi Francesco, 171. 
Mauro Giovanni, 95. 
Mazzini Giuseppe, 178. 
Medici Lorenzo, 45, 53. 
Meli Giovanni, 137. 
Menzini Benedetto, 101, 102. 
Metastasio Pietro, 114. 
Milizia Francesco, 127. 
Mina, 6. 

Minghetti Marco, 178. 
Molza Francesco Maria, 65. 

- Tarquinia, 94. 
Mondella, 85. 
Mongitore, 136. 
Monti Vincenzo, 145, 173. 
Muratori Ludovico Antonio, 112, 


Mussato Albertino, 44. 
Muzio Girolamo, 93. 

Nardi Jacopo, 59. 
Nelli Pietro, 97. 

Pallavicini Sforza, 101, 108. 
Parabosco Girolamo, 65. 
Parini Giuseppe, 126, 173. 
Passeroni Gian Carlo, 129. 
Pellico Silvio, 159, 161. 
Peregrine Camillo, 81. 
Peretti Antonio, 171. 
Perticari Giulio, 147. 
Petrarca Francesco, 31-37- 
Piccolomini Alessandro, 89. 
Pignotti Lorenzo, 129. 
Pindemonti Ippolito, 150. 
Poliziano Angelo, 46, 53, 
Porta Carlo, 168. 
Porto (da) Luigi, 65. 
Porzio Camillo, 60, 142. 
Prati Giovanni, 172. 
Preti Girolamo, 100. 
Pulci Antonia, 45. 
Bernardo, 45. 
Luigi, 48. 

Ranalli Ferdinando, 177. 
Redi Francesco, 103. 
Rinuccini Ottavio, 92. 
Romani Felice, 176. 
Rosa Salvatore, 102. 
Roselli Alessandro, 46. 
Rosini Giovanni, 157. 
Rossetti Gabriele, 172. 
Rucellai Giovanni, 84, 97. 
Ruzzante, 90. 

Sacchetti Franco, 42. 
Saladino di Pavia, 7. 
Salviati Leonardo, 61, 63. 
Sannazzaro Jacopo, 38, 90. 

1 84 


Sarpi Paolo, 108. 
Scina Domenico, 137. 
Segni Bernardo, 59. 
Sergardi Ludovico, 102. 
Sestini Bartolomeo, 161. 
Simeoni, 97. 
Soave, 152. 
Sordello, 5. 

Speroni Sperone, 67, 84. 
Spinelli Matteo, 14. 
Stampa Gaspara, 94. 
Stigliani, 106. 

Tansillo Luigi, 97. 

Tasso Bernardo, 76. 

Torquato, 79, 86, 105. 

Tassoni Alessandro, 104, 106, in. 

Tempio Domenico, 137. 

Terracina Laura, 94. 

Testa Arrigo, 6. 

Testi Fulvio, 101. 

Tommaseo Niccolo, 173. 

Torti Giovanni, 159. 

Tosti Luigi, 178. 

Trapassi Pietro, 114. 

Trissino Gian Giorgio, 76, 83, 116. 
Tullia d' Aragona, 94. 

Uberti (degli) Fazio, 29. 

Vannucci Atto, 1 78. 
Varano Alfonso, 121, 145. 
Varchi Benedetto, 59. 
Vasari Giorgio, 68. 
Venturi Luigi, 173. 
Verri Pietro, 143. 
Vico Giambattista, 113. 
Vigne (delle) Piero, 6. 
Villafranchi, 106. 
Villani Filippo, 15, 36. 
Giovanni, 36. 
Matteo, 36. 
Villari Pasquale, 178. 
Vinciguerra Antonio, 96. 
Vitale Giuseppe, 137. 

Zanella Giacomo, 173. 
Zannoni G. Battista, 175. 
Zappi, G. Battista, no. 
Zeno Apostolo, 112, 115. 





This book is due on the last date stamped below, or 

on the date to which renewed. 
Renewed books are subject to immediate recalL 


JAN 2 9 1962 

ntC'D LD 

MAY 3 11962 

LD 21A-50m-8,'61 

General Library 

University of California 


YB 03020